Leader Blues

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

TOP STORY >>Domestic Violence

By PEG KENYON
Leader staff writer

In the aftermath of a domestic disturbance, Chesrick Martin, 25, of Jacksonville wrecked his ex-girlfriend’s car after a high-speed chase with the Jacksonville Police Department.

When girlfriend Erica Young broke off their relationship, Martin become irate and threatened to steal and wreck Young’s car. He took off in her 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt last Friday, and police soon began a pursuit that ended with a wreck at the intersection of Loop and Military roads when he failed to stop at the stop sign.

The police chase began after Young filed a complaint on the unauthorized use of her vehicle by Martin at the Jacksonville police station. While filing the report, an officer spoke with Martin on Young’s cell phone, telling the officer “come find me, and if you find me it’s going to be a high-speed chase.”

Before he took off in Young’s car, he caused a disturbance at 313B Bellevue Circle, the home of Young’s mother. A witness told police she heard glass breaking and saw a muscular black male slam a trashcan against the front window of the residence. She then heard screaming and yelling and more glass breaking.

Martin was arrested on one felony count of possession of a firearm, one felony count of fleeing, two felony counts of criminal mischief and one misdemeanor count each of the unauthorized use of a vehicle, reckless driving, resisting arrest and driving on a suspended driver’s license.

He was transferred to the Pulaski County Detention Center and later bonded out.

But that incident was just one of many domestic calls the police have dealt with this year. Jacksonville’s first homicide of the year was the result of domestic violence. Marlin Marbley, 24, remains in jail on a $500,000 bond despite his plea of not guilty to a felony count of first-degree murder.

His victim, 24-year-old Cassondra Leigh Speer of Jacksonville, lived with him at Plantation Village Mobile Home Park.
In June, a Lonoke woman was fatally shot with a shotgun blast to the abdomen by her husband. In Sherwood, a pregnant woman was beaten by her boyfriend.

According to Pat Blackstone, program director for the Arkansas Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 16 women have died so far this year from apparent domestic violence.

In 2006, 17 deaths were attributed to domestic violence during the entire year.

“Don’t wait for the yelling, screaming, running out of the house and the gunshots,” Blackstone warns. She recommends reporting disturbances before it is too late to help the victim.

Blackstone says victims of domestic violence must speak out and tell their friends, neighbors, relatives and even school officials if children are involved.

“This sets up a support system for the victim of domestic abuse,” she said. A short safety plan should also be developed when dealing with domestic abuse.

“Avoid being cornered in the kitchen. There are items there that could be used as weapons, and don’t get confined in a small area like a bathroom either,” Blackstone said, adding that if one gets caught up in a domestic abuse situation, the victim should get to a room where there is an exit.

Two 24-hour domestic abuse hotlines are available in the central Arkansas area. Victims may call the Little Rock Women and Children First hotline in Little Rock at (501) 376-3219, or the Lonoke County Safe Haven hotline at (501) 941-4357.

And although it may not always end the violence, Blackstone said a domestic abuse victim can seek an order of protection to prevent the alleged abuser from coming near the victim.

“An order of protection will not stop a bullet,” she said. Law-enforcement agencies are constantly dealing with domestic violence as there is no set time of the year, month or week when the acts occur.

“Domestic disturbances never take a vacation,” Lt. Martin Cass, public information officer for the Jacksonville Police Department, said.

“The first thing we recommend is when things are getting heated up, one party should leave because this allows for a cooling-off period,” he said.

Between May 1 and June 18 there were 201 calls into the Jacksonville dispatch center; of those, a few may not have been a domestic, but possibly a civil situation, Cass said.

The 201 calls in 45 days averages out to only about one-and-a-half domestic disturbances handled by the JPD on each shift, he said. In the unincorporated areas, in Pulaski County north of the Arkansas River, the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office since May 1 has handled about 48 calls involving incidents resulting in charges of battery against someone.

“The vast majority of them were regarding domestic disturbances,” John Rehrauer, public information officer for the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office, said.

Rehrauer also indicated that there has been no increase in domestic disturbances as summer gets underway this year. “There’s been no spike either way,” he said.

He recommended to victims of domestic abuse to make a paper trail by reporting actual incidents.
“The paper trail will then reveal a pattern of abuse,” he said.

But he does not want people calling in and making up incidents of domestic abuse just to establish a pattern.
“Obviously, try to get away and don’t continue the argument if you are involved in a domestic,” Rehrauer said.
Sherwood registered 20 domestic calls during May, according to Lt. Cheryl Williams, public information officer for the Sherwood Police Department.

“I wouldn’t say it’s our biggest problem, but we take domestic calls very seriously because of the high potential for danger,” she said.

Sherwood’s last homicide, which occurred about two years ago, stemmed from an apparent domestic disturbance between a husband and wife.

“The wife shot him in the back as the husband was packing a bag to leave,” Williams recalled. The wife, Carolyn Cooper, was arrested and convicted in 2006.

Williams believes eradicating domestic abuse won’t happen because “we’re all human,” she said. But she does believe family members should discuss domestic violence, and even anger-management classes by counselors could help.
Putting it all in perspective, Blackstone summed it this way:

“One of the first things we tell women is they do not deserve to be abused,” Blackstone said.

Although this advice was directed toward women, other domestic disturbance incident reports do list men as victims as well, but only rarely.