Annual vigil concludes National Domestic Violence Awareness Month events

Dozens of police officers, volunteers and community members walked through the traveling Silent Witness National Initiative exhibit last week.

Sixty-six cutouts were on display in Bank of America park Oct. 22, each figure representing a man, woman or child from Washington state who died from domestic violence in 2007. A piece of paper was taped to each "person" listing his or her name, the date he or she died, and a short story describing the circumstance.

Pepper Lynn Jones, 27, lived in Tacoma and died Feb. 26, 2006. Jones' fully clothed body was found in the bathtub of her home. Her car was missing and police could not locate her husband. Family members spotted the husband and called the police. The police report said the husband returned to see the couple's 7-year-old daughter one last time.

The husband hit Jones on the head numerous times with a claw hammer and then submerged her in the bathtub. According to Jones' mother, her daughter recently had decided to divorce her husband. The couple's daughter was staying with relatives the weekend of the murder.

Bob Spinks, Sequim's chief of police and interim city manager, gave the keynote speech.

"These life-size figures are poignant reminders of the victims we mourn today. Each one of these figures represents a separate tragedy that we remember," Spinks said, listing the most recent Washington state statistics, as of 2006, as 49,980 domestic violence police investigations, 12,267 violations of protection orders, 6,147 victims sheltered, 36,522 refused requests for shelter, and 22,370 calls to the state's violence hotline seeking information.

"Some people will say that Sequim and Clallam County are quiet, rural areas. And that there's probably no need to worry about domestic violence here, right?" Spinks continued. "Wrong. Countywide there were 575 acts of domestic violence in 2006. That included over 400 assaults and has included crimes ranging from murder, rape and robbery to larceny, vandalism and motor vehicle theft."

Spinks, brought to tears with emotion, shared a personal story about his sister-in-law who was murdered by her husband in 1982. Tom Hempel, Spinks brother-in-law, remains incarcerated in the Indiana prison system. Each year, the family writes a letter to the parole board begging for Hempel to remain behind bars.

"For being Irish and being a cop, I get to cry," Spinks said, trying to lighten the mood as he shared his family's story.

"We recognize October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but we need to recognize the consequences of domestic violence all year long," Spinks concluded in a more serious tone. "Through education, funding and support, we can continue working together to break the cycle of domestic violence and bring hope to victims affected by these terrible acts."

After Spinks finished his speech, Becca Korby, executive director of Healthy Families of Clallam County, took back the microphone and shared the organization's goal of making its own domestic violence exhibit that includes a cutout for every domestic violence fatality in the state.

"This city has embraced this cause," Korby said. "It is an ugly problem that is getting worse."

"Become intolerant," she pleaded. "(Domestic violence) knows no economic barriers, social status, age or sex."

Korby is a domestic violence survivor. "I was a walking dead woman," she admitted. "But for the grace of God and a couple of committed deputies, I am alive."

In an effort to find the "hope and joy" amidst the sorrow, Korby presented Gratitude Awards to 13 peninsula individuals in honor of their service to victims of domestic violence, including Sequim Police detectives Sean Madison and Kori Malone.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Oct 26
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates