Thursday, March 28, 2013

Amanda Bach Murder Case - Dustin McCowan Sentenced

Also See:

Updates on Amanda Bach Murder Case are on the 
Michigan Officer Involved Domestic Violence Website:
[IN] Amanda Bach Murder Case

Amanda Bach Murder Case - Videos

Amanda Bach Murder - Dustin McCowan charged with murder – September 16, 2011

Amanda Bach Murder Case - Investigation of Officer Joseph Elliott McCowan [Crown Point Indiana PD] - September 2011 - April 2013

Amanda Bach Murder Case - Dustin McCowan Trial and Conviction- Feb 04, 2013

The Case:
Dustin McCowan: son of Crown Point Indiana police officer Joseph Elliott McCowan. Convicted in February 2013 of murdering Amanda Bach [Portage IN - September 16, 2011]. Sentenced to 60 years in prison [March 2013].
Immediately following the murder of Amanda Bach the Porter County SD also began investigating Dustin McCowan's father: Officer Joseph Elliot McCowan, for his possible role in hiding key evidence [ Amanda's cell phone; the gun; etc] in the murder case against his son / Dustin. In April 2013 the Porter County SD discontinued its investigation of Officer McCowan. The sheriff department, prosecutor, and Amanda's parents believe that Officer McCowan played a role in covering up the murder of Amanda.
The Porter County Sheriff Department said the investigation of Officer McCowan could be re-opened if they receive new information in the case.

McCowan fails in first bid to overturn murder conviction
May 03, 2013 - 4:35 pm
Bob Kasarda
NWI Times

VALPARAISO - Dustin McCowan has failed in his first shot at overturning his 60-year sentence and conviction for murdering former girlfriend Amanda Bach.

Porter Superior Court Judge Bill Alexa on Friday tossed out claims that he erred by not stepping aside after learning about a telephone call with McCowan from the jail that included derogatory and threatening remarks about prosecutors, police and their family members.

Public defender Mitch Peters argued 20-year-old McCowan's original defense team did not know about the call until Alexa commented on it during sentencing or it would have asked the judge to recuse himself.

The judge mentioning the call indicated "a personal prejudice and animosity against the defendant," Peters said.

Alexa said in his Friday order that the court is made aware of any potential threats involving staff or participants in order to determine whether there is a risk to personal safety. That is what occurred in this case, and Alexa said he determined there was no threat.

This type of communication is carried out for safety reasons and does not require recusal, he said.

Alexa also said in his order that Peters filed the challenge April 18, before a written transcript was even available of the March 28 sentencing hearing.

According to Friday's order, Alexa had said during the sentencing hearing that McCowan said no when it was suggested during the recorded telephone call that it would be appropriate for prosecutors' children to be killed "so that they would know what this is all about." As a result, Alexa said he did not take the call into consideration when he decided on a sentence.

The call in question was between McCowan and an unnamed person.

Peters has said this failed motion to correct errors was a prerequisite for appeal when addressing newly discovered evidence that could not have been discovered at the time of trial. He reserves the right to take up other issues on direct appeal, but first must review the record considering he did not represent McCowan at the time of trial.

A jury found McCowan guilty in February of shooting his former girlfriend, 19-year-old Bach, of Portage, in the throat during the early morning hours of Sept. 16, 2011, after she showed up at the Union Township home he was living in at the time with his father.

Bach's partially clothed body was found the next day, less than 300 yards from the house in a wooded area along County Road 625 West at the Canadian National Railroad tracks.

McCowan, who has maintained his innocence, has been transferred to the Pendleton Correctional Facility to begin serving his time. He is listed on the DOC's online offender search site with a release date of Sept. 17, 2041.

  McCowan seeking to toss out conviction/sentence
April 19, 2013 - 8:00 pm
Bob Kasarda
NWI Times

VALPARAISO - A public defender brought in to handle the appeal for convicted murderer Dustin McCowan is seeking to toss out the conviction and/or 60-year sentence because Porter Superior Court Judge Bill Alexa did not step aside after learning about a telephone call with McCowan from the jail that includes derogatory and threatening remarks about the judge.

The original defense attorneys, who did not learn about the recorded call until Alexa made reference to it during the March 28 sentencing, would have asked the judge to recuse himself had they been made aware of it ahead of time, said attorney Mitch Peters.

Alexa mentioning the call during sentencing indicates "a personal prejudice and animosity against the defendant inspired by said conversation," Peters wrote as part of his motion to correct errors filed Thursday.

Alexa said at sentencing that the call by McCowan at the jail included a comment that prosecutors would have to experience the murder of their own children to understand what the McCowans were going through.

No hearing had been set on the motion as of Friday.

Peters argues that state trial rules say that "the court, if it determines that prejudicial or harmful error has been committed, shall take such action as will cure the error." The potential remedies include a new trial or modifying the original judgment.

Peters said this motion to correct errors is a prerequisite for appeal when addressing newly discovered evidence that could not have been discovered at the time of trial. He reserves the right to take up other issues on direct appeal, but first must review the record considering he did not represent McCowan at the time of trial.

Those original defense attorneys — John Vouga and Nicholas Barnes — submitted a sworn affidavit supporting the claims that they were not made aware of the recording before the sentencing hearing and would have asked Alexa to recuse himself had they been provided a copy ahead of time.

A jury found McCowan guilty in February of shooting his former girlfriend, 19-year-old Amanda Bach, of Portage, in the throat during the early morning hours of Sept. 16, 2011, after she showed up at the Union Township home he was living in at the time with his father.

Bach's partially clothed body was found the next day less than 300 yards from the house in a wooded area along County Road 625 West at the Canadian National Railroad tracks.

McCowan, 20, who has maintained his innocence, has been transferred to the Pendleton Correctional Facility to begin serving his time. He is listed on the DOC's online offender search site with a release date of Sept. 17, 2041.

McCowan transferred to begin serving 60-year term for murder
April 16, 2013 - 1:00 pm
Bob Kasarda
NWI Times—year-term-for-murder/article_93678dbf-a71d-5ef7-87a6-3265c1aaffe6

VALPARAISO - Less than three weeks after being sentenced to 60 years for murdering his former girlfriend, Dustin McCowan has been transferred to the Pendleton Correctional Facility to begin serving his time.

The prison is one of four maximum-level facilities in the state, which are used to house inmates with long sentences, said Douglas Garrison, chief communications officer with the Indiana Department of Correction.

McCowan, 20, is listed on the DOC's online offender search site with a release date of Sept. 17, 2041.

This reflects the earliest date he would be released if his behavior remains good and he earns a day off for each day served, Garrison said. The release date could come even sooner if McCowan shaves more time off by taking part in educational or other programs.

The county's public defender office has been assigned to file an appeal on McCowan's behalf, in an attempt at getting a reduced sentence or having his conviction set aside.

Garrison said legislation is pending before state lawmakers that would increase the amount of time served by giving inmates the opportunity to earn one day off for every three days of good behavior. Any changes would not apply to McCowan.

A jury found McCowan guilty in February of shooting 19-year-old Amanda Bach, of Portage, in the throat during the early morning hours of Sept. 16, 2011, after she showed up at the Union Township home he was living in at the time with his father.

Bach's body was found the next day less than 300 yards from the house in a wooded area along County Road 625 West at the Canadian National Railroad tracks.

McCowan, who has maintained his innocence, declined the opportunity to testify during his nearly monthlong trial or to address the court at sentencing, other than saying, "I don't think the court deserves it, your honor."

Day of beauty fund-raiser honors Bach, raises awareness
April 04, 2013 - 8:08 pm
Lesley Bailey
NWI Times

VALPARAISO - Anna McDonald hopes a day of beauty will not only honor the memory of Amanda Bach but also will bring awareness to dating violence and relationship abuse.

"The main theme for this fundraiser is to educate and provide awareness to families and teenagers about the warning signs of relationship abuse and that help is available," said McDonald, a Mary Kay director.

"Quite often, victims of abuse - especially mental and verbal - mistakenly accept the directed behavior as ‘normal’ or ‘no big deal’ because it is coming from someone they trust, maybe even someone they thought that they loved at one time."

Dustin McCowan was recently sentenced to a near-maximum of 60 years in prison for the Sept. 16, 2011, murder of Amanda, who was his former girlfriend.

A presentation based on the "Don’t Look Away/Love is Respect" campaign will be part of the fund-raiser from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday April 20 at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 505 Bullseye Lake Road.

"A main informational point of this presentation includes the discussion of an anonymous telephone hotline where victims of abuse can call and receive free advice from peers outside of their social circle. The anonymous hotline provides an avenue of hope to victims, especially teenagers, who are too embarrassed or scared to discuss their concerns with parents," McDonald said.

The event will also include complimentary skin care sessions, a silent auction, raffle and refreshments. There is no cost for the pampering sessions but appointments need to be made by contacting McDonald at (219) 508-8790

All proceeds from the sale of Mary Kay products and the silent auction/raffle and contributions will be donated. Half will go to the church and half will be given to Valparaiso’s The Caring Place, which provides services and shelter for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, per the request of Sandy and Bill Bach in memory of Amanda.

McDonald said she and her husband, Eric, decided to have the fund-raiser to assist Amanda’s parents in continuing to honor their daughter as the Bachs were good friends and neighbors of Eric from 2002-06.

"Amanda and her sister spent a lot of time playing with Eric’s daughter during that time," she said. "Needless to say, it is very hard to comprehend losing a daughter … a vibrant, beautiful young lady with such a bright future and zest for life.

"As parents, all of us are heartbroken and crushed that something this horrific could happen to somebody’s child - especially a friend’s child - and from our local community. It hit close to home because it happened to someone we knew very well, and her life was stolen from her by someone she knew, someone that she trusted."

McDonald said as a Mary Kay director, the day of beauty event was the one way she felt she could help.

"We want to help teenagers realize that any form of abuse, mental or physical, is never OK," she said.

Those who cannot attend, but wish to donate should contact McDonald at (219) 508-8790

For Mary Kay's 50th anniversary, there is a limited edition compact with a Swarovski crystal that is at the center of the "Love is Respect/Don’t Look Away" campaign with $1 from the sale of each compact going to help fund it.

Amanda Bach murder: Dustin McCowan sentenced to 60 years in prison
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Ben Bradley
WLS- TV Chicago IL

[IN] Amanda Bach murder- Dustin McCowan sentenced to 60 years in prison- Mar 28, 2013

[IN] Amanda Bach murder- Dustin McCowan sentenced to 60 years in prison- Mar 28, 2013

March 28, 2013 (VALPARAISO, Ind.) (WLS) -- Portage, Indiana teen Amanda Bach was found dead about 300 feet from her one-time boyfriend Dustin McCowan's home in September 2011.
On Thursday 20-year-old McCowan received the near-maximum sentence Thursday for the shooting death of Bach. He was convicted for the murder in February 2013.

Before his sentence was handed down, McCowan refused to make a statement to the court.

"I don't think this court deserves it," he said defiantly.

McCowan offered a slight smile in the courtroom just minutes after a Porter County judge sentenced him to 60 years behind bars.

Amanda Bach's mother Sandy Bach took the stand at the sentencing hearing to describe the impact of loss of her daughter at the age of 19.

Though tears, she said, "I will not let you get the best of me Dustin, I will not. You can't even look at me, can you?"

In an unusual argument, prosecutors blamed not only Dustin McCowan but also his family. The judge revealed today an unidentified relative was heard on a prison phone telling him:
"It would be appropriate if the deputy prosecuting attorneys' children were killed so they would know what it's like."
Dustin McCowan's father Elliott McCowan is a Crown Point police officer. The sheriff's office previously said they were looking into whether he helped hide the murder weapon.
Ex-Boyfriend Gets 60 Years in Teen's Murder
Investigators say they continue probe into Dustin McCowan's family
Thursday, Mar 28, 2013
Updated 8:48 PM CDT
Charlie Wojcifchowski
NBC News - Chicago, IL

[IN] Ex-Boyfriend Gets 60 Years in Teen's Murder- Mar 28, 2013

Emotions ran high outside an Indiana courtroom Thursday afternoon after Dustin McCowan, the man convicted last month of killing his ex-girlfriend, was sentenced to 60 years in prison.

His family vowed to appeal.

"I'm his mother. The fact is, he's innocent and we will appeal," a defiant Jame Tome told reporters outside the Porter County Courthouse.

By contrast, McCowan, 20, was stoic as Judge William Alexa handed down the sentence for his role in the September 2011 shooting death of Amanda Bach. Earlier, he'd declined to make a statement to the court.

I don’t think the court deserves it, your honor," he said.

Amanda Bach's parents said the sentence was bittersweet.

"I guess what we would like would be life without parole. I mean, he doesn't deserve to talk the streets," said Bach's father, William Bach. "He'll be younger than me when he gets out of prison."

Bach's body was found in a wooded area near McCowan's home in Union Township three days after the 19-year-old disappeared.

Despite the conviction and sentencing, investigators say their work in the case isn't over. Prosecutors said they area looking into the possibility that McCowan's family tried to protect him by hiding evidence. It's an allegation McCowan's father, a Crown Point police officer, denies.
"Everybody has their own opinions," Elliot McCowan said as he walked away from the courthouse.
In her remarks, deputy prosecutor Cheryl Polarek said Dustin McCowan is a product of his environment and of those with whom he lives.

Dustin McCowan sentenced to 60 years in murder of Amanda Bach
March 28, 2013 - 6:30 pm
Bob Kasarda
NWI Times

VALPARAISO - Dustin McCowan smiled with jail guards as he was escorted out of the courtroom Thursday afternoon after being sentenced to a near-maximum of 60 years in prison for the Sept. 16, 2011 murder of his former girlfriend Amanda Bach of Portage.

The 20-year-old, who has grown a beard since last month's trial, declined an opportunity to comment before sentencing, saying only, "I don't think the court deserves it your honor."

He was found guilty of shooting 19-year-old Bach in the throat during the early morning hours after she showed up at the Union Township home he was living in at the time with his father. Bach's partially clothed body was found the following day less than 300 yards from the house in a wooded area along County Road 625 West at the Canadian National Railroad tracks.

The victim's father, Bill Bach, called the sentence bittersweet, pointing out that McCowan could be Bach's age when released from prison, if he is eligible to cut his terms in half with good behavior and participation in various programs.

"I guess what we would like would be life without parole," he said.

His wife, Sandy Bach, objected to the defense comparing McCowan going to prison to her daughter's death.

"Their loss doesn't compare to our loss," she said.

While the sentencing brought an end to the local stage of the high profile case, which included a nearly month-long trial in February, Porter Superior Court Judge Bill Alexa appointed the public defender's office to begin work on the appeal.

Emotions were high in the packed courtroom Thursday, with a McCowan supporter storming out of the hearing after Deputy Prosecutor Cheryl Polarek called members of the McCowan family "dishonest, cowardly and pathetic."

Polarek also referenced a recorded telephone call with McCowan at the jail that the judge later explained included a comment that prosecutors would have to experience the murder of their own children to understand what the McCowans were going through.

"Dustin McCowan is the way he is because of the adults in his life," Polarek said.

County police have revealed that they believe McCowan's father, Elliott McCowan, a Crown Point police officer, may have aided his son in attempting to cover up the murder.

Sandy Bach fueled the emotional atmosphere of the courtroom with a lengthy statement describing the many levels of pain she has suffered as a result of the murder and the challenges she faces without Amanda in her life.

"I will not let you get the best of me, Dustin, I will not," she said repeatedly during the statement. "You don't like hearing that, do you?"

Bill Bach, described the pain he felt watching McCowan plug his ears and look toward the floor whenever photos of his dead daughter were shown and discussed during the trial.

"I will have to leave his fate in the hands of God," he said.

The McCowan family declined comment as they left the courtroom, but defense attorney John Vouga characterized the near-maximum sentence as "a mere formality" that offers more fuel for the appeal that he voiced confidence would result in a reversal and chance for a new trial with an unbiased jury from outside the county.

McCowan's defense team spent much of the trial criticizing the police investigation as inadequate. The defense has raised questions about the involvement of other individuals, including the Wheeler man who helped police locate Bach's body.

Boyfriend Gets 60 Years In Portage Woman’s Murder
March 28, 2013 - 4:58 PM
CBS News - Chicago, IL"-years-in-portage-ind-womans-murder

[IN] Boyfriend Gets 60 Years In Portage Woman’s Murder- Mar 28, 2013

(CBS) — While family and friends searched for his missing girlfriend, Dustin McCowan partied, according to police. Now, he’ll be spending 60 years in prison for her murder.

The sentence was handed down Thursday afternoon in Valparaiso, Ind.

McCowan, 20, was apparently jealous in his rocky relationship with Amanda Bach, 19, of Portage. Police found her body close to railroad tracks, about 300 yards from McCowan’s home in Wheeler, Ind. in September 2011.

Prosecutors said the bullet in her body matched the ammunition in McCowan’s father’s gun, which was missing.

Bach’s father, William, says the 60-year sentence is not strict enough.

"I guess what we would like is life without parole. I mean, he doesn’t deserve to walk the streets," he told reporters.

McCowan’s lawyers claimed the police investigation was flawed. They also raised questions about the involvement of other people.

Tensions ran high as the McCowan’s father, Elliot, left the Porter County Courthouse. The Crown Point police officer is under investigation, for potentially helping hide evidence in Bach’s murder, according to police.

"Everybody has their own opinions," he said.

Said William Bach, "My gut feeling is he had something to do with it, to help him."

McCowan murder sentencing
Thursday March 27, 2013 - 5:15 pm
Bob Kasarda
NWI Times

VALPARAISO - Thirty days after Dustin McCowan was whisked out of the courtroom after being found guilty of murdering former girlfriend Amanda Bach, he will make a return visit Thursday afternoon to face sentencing.

The 20-year-old faces between 45 and 65 years behind bars.

Security is expected to be as tight Thursday as it was during the trial that lasted much of February before Porter Superior Court Judge Bill Alexa.

The trial attracted a full house of family members and supporters from both sides, who are expected to return for the 2 p.m. sentencing.

McCowan was convicted Feb. 26 of the Sept. 16, 2011, slaying of 19-year-old Bach, of Portage, whose body was found with a bullet hole through the throat along railroad tracks less than 300 yards from the Union Township home McCowan was living in at the time with his father.

While the mothers of McCowan and Bach cried when the verdict was read, McCowan, who was standing, closed his eyes and then sat down and looked toward the floor.

Amanda Bach's father, Bill Bach, said at the time he is hoping for the maximum sentence, but pointed out McCowan still will be a young man when he’s released.

Defense attorney John Vouga said he plans to appeal.

McCowan's defense team had taken the unusual step of securing the right to attend a standard, court-ordered interview with McCowan that is part of a report used for sentencing.

Vouga said he wanted to be present to protect McCowan's constitutional rights and steer his client away from discussing his version of the events. Vouga said he encourages his clients to direct the probation officer asking this type of question back to the details in the plea agreement or to the facts that came out during a trial.

Porter County Chief Probation Officer Stephen Meyer disagreed with the approach, saying his officers are instructed by state policy to seek out the defendant's version of the crime as part of the job of painting a full picture of the individual for the judge to consider at sentencing.

Meyer said he understood Vouga's desire to limit the information provided by McCowan in preparation for an appeal. The problem, he said, is the presence of an attorney can interfere with defendant sharing information and it is in the defendant's best interest to cooperate.

McCowan's lawyer to sit in interview
March 09, 2013 - 11:35 pm
Bob Kasarda
NWI Times

VALPARAISO - Attorneys for convicted murderer Dustin McCowan have taken the unusual step of securing the right to attend a court-ordered interview with McCowan to be used when he is sentenced March 28.

Defense attorney John Vouga said he or his legal partner, Nicholas Barnes, want to be present to protect McCowan's constitutional rights.

"We encourage them to cooperate," Vouga said of his clients. "The only element that we feel is essential is when a probation officer tries to talk to a defendant about his version of the events."

McCowan, 20, was convicted Feb. 26 of the Sept. 16, 2011, slaying of an ex-girlfriend, Amanda Bach, 19. Bach's body was found with a bullet hole through the throat along railroad tracks less than 300 yards from the Union Township home he was living in at the time with his father.

McCowan faces between 45 and 65 years behind bars.

Vouga said he encourages his clients to direct the probation officer asking this type of question back to the details in the plea agreement or to the facts that came out during a trial.

"He doesn't need to get the defendant's version," he said.

Porter County Chief Probation Officer Stephen Meyer disagreed.

Probation officers are instructed by state policy to seek out the defendant's version of the crime as part of the job of painting a full picture of the individual for the judge to consider at sentencing, he said.

The presentence report in question includes all sorts of details of the offender's life, including past criminal history, mental health and any substance abuse.

The report also includes a risk assessment and needs, and a victim's impact statement.

"I don't think an attorney should be sitting in on these interviews," Meyer said.

Meyer said he understands Vouga's desire to limit the information provided by McCowan in preparation for an appeal in the high-profile murder of Bach, a Portage resident.

The problem is the presence of an attorney can interfere with defendant sharing information needed for the presentence report, he said. It is in the defendant's best interest to cooperate.

"This is their chance to present themselves the best they can for the judge," Meyer said.

The interview in question has yet to take place, but will likely last between two and three hours, he said. The entire presentence report is typically 10 pages in length and should be complete by March 21 or 22.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

NW Indiana Flawed Domestic Violence Protective Order System - News Article

PAPER PROTECTION: Undeterred abusers, uncooperative victims thwart assistance
March 05, 2013 12:00 am
Monte Martin
NWI Times

Maybe there was nothing the courts and police could have done to avert the suspected domestic battery deaths of at least 22 region residents who have been killed since 2010.

Even if they had not previously been battered, stalked or harassed, their deaths send a message to all who seek shelter or protection through the legal system.

Perhaps no amount of victim advocates, intervention counselors, specially trained police officers, no-contact orders or protective orders — one of the last lines of defense for domestic-battery victims — could have produced different outcomes.

Victims know that. The police know that. And, certainly, Judge William Davis of Lake County Superior Court, who has issued orders of protection from his seat on the bench in Hammond, is aware of it.

"Everybody knows all it is, is a protective order. All it is, is a piece of paper. And if the other person who receives it has no respect for the law and doesn't even show proper deference to the fact they've been ordered to stay away from somebody, that is not going to stop them," said Davis, discussing the limits of what he calls "paper protection."

That knowledge keeps victims in mortal fear, said Geneva Brown, a Valparaiso University Law School professor who conducts a domestic violence clinic out of the Lake County clerk's office in Crown Point.

Breaking up is riskiest time
"What I wish courts and law enforcement would understand is that women are most vulnerable for lethal violence when they leave the relationship — when they come to the court for help. I don't care how frustrating it is for police officers or courts or the judges to understand," said Brown, a Gary native. "It takes a lot for someone to come into court, to ask for an order of protection and ask to be protected.

"If a criminal charge is companion to the order of protection, and she's been a victim of severe abuse, the person is in jail. They may be looking at losing their job; and you have someone who has lost a job — they have a lot to be angry about. It's very intimidating and very frightening for her."

Protective orders are supposed to give both parties a cooling-off period to assess whether they want to halt hostilities, reconcile or part company relatively amicably. There isn't a lot of evidence they effectively do that, victim advocates said.

The Lake County prosecutor's office, which automatically attaches a no-contact order to all domestic violence cases, gets a "high percentage" of victims who are simply too afraid to proceed and cooperate after filing domestic battery charges, Prosecutor Bernard Carter said.

"We get victims who bond out a husband or boyfriend," said Peter Villarreal, first assistant deputy prosecuting attorney. In some instances, the victim will even attest the attacker was acting in self-defense, that she started the fight, Carter said.

Paul Haluska, of the Lake County Sheriff's Department Protective Order Assistance Program, figures roughly 95 percent of orders of protection are either rescinded or lapse when the victim doesn't show up in court.

Davis estimates that of the approximately 270 cases he heard in the first half of last year, 25 percent to 35 percent of orders of protection he granted in Room 5 were voluntarily withdrawn within four to six months.

Despite the no-contact orders, victims who secure orders of protection frequently find batterers are undeterred, continuing to threaten, stalk and harass, even though they risk upgrading their offense from a misdemeanor to invasion of privacy, a Class D felony.

Victims' subsequent dealings with police and court personnel to enforce an order of protection can feel more like torment than assistance, some victims said.

Victim burdened like no other
It's up to victims to be heavily invested in their case, saving text messages and voicemails if they're getting "adverse contact" from suspects, said then-Lt. Jeff Snemis, Merrillville chief of detectives. Snemis said doing so serves a twofold purpose: It allows police to establish probable cause and weeds out "vindictive victims" who might be making baseless accusations.

"In no other crime would you have to burden the victim" to pursue their case, said Kerry Blomquist, legal adviser to the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

VU Law School's Brown, whose previous work as a public defender involved her defending domestic batterers, observed that working with victims can become frustrating for many in the system.

"We've had cases where there have been multiple orders of protection filed … sometimes on both sides," she said. "Those are the cases where the courts want termination of the relationship. And frankly, you can't blame them (the courts) when you use this as a weapon against a former partner or you try to hurt someone."

Dealing with the forms and bureaucracy, the embarrassment of staying with an abuser and the social stigma that goes with it might be a big part of why many stop pursuing legal remedies. But there are other reasons, Brown said.

"A lot of people do not want to terminate their relationships (with an abuser)," she said, explaining: "They don't want to raise families on their own. They don't want to be economically vulnerable."

Who risks homelessness?
Little wonder 85 percent of victims seeking assistance had left their abuser five times previously, considering Indiana pays less than $350 a month in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to a family of three, Blomquist writes in her essay, "Five Barriers for Leaving an Abusive Relationship."

Financial despair is the primary reason victims return to the batterer, since TANF is "the primary safety net for fleeing abuse victims," she said.

Brown said she doesn't know how many former clients attempt to "fix the problem" on their own. Do they succeed? Do they fail? Do they tire of dealing with the system or their situation?

Some do reconcile. Brown estimates 10 percent to 20 percent of her clients might have.

"I've seen people go through absolutely antagonistic hearings and end up reconciled," Brown said. She can't begin to guess how many, since "no one ever calls me up and says, 'Hey, we've reconciled.'"

That's why she always counsels her law students to respect their clients' wishes.

"The best goal for my clients is that they understand they don't have to be in abusive relationships," she said.

NWI domestic violence deaths from 2010 to 2012
July 7, National Guardsman Brian K. Lunn, 27, of Gary, was fatally shot at the home of his girlfriend, the mother of two of his children, by a 23-year-old man identified as her son, police said.

July 27, Kimberly Louise Danielwicz, 40, of Merrillville, the victim of an apparent homicide. Boyfriend James E. Bailey, 42, was found dead in a Cook County motel room shortly after, an apparent suicide. He previously had been convicted of a murder in Illinois.

July 30, Rhonda Nehr, 45, of Dyer, found dead of a chest stab wound. Husband Larry Nehr, 58, was found dead in the home. Police suspect a murder-suicide after talk of a separation.

Jan. 16,  Jacqueline Williams, 28, found shot to death in her home after her co-workers alerted police that she had not shown up for work. Douglas Smith, 27, her live-in boyfriend, was convicted of shooting her last month. He is believed to have shot her during an argument. He then fled to Florida, but was extradited soon after.

Dec. 19, 2011, Thomas Mallory Jr., 17, of Gary, admitted shooting his father, Thomas Mallory, because his father beat his mother and threatened to plant drugs in the teen's room.

Nov. 15, 2011, Jason DeGroot Jr., 10, shot in the back by his father, who then shot himself in the chest, but survived his injuries — family members said DeGroot Sr. was depressed about his marriage falling apart and his wife's death.

Nov. 8, 2011, Tishwanda Reynolds, 19, strangled in her bed by her ex-boyfriend — her 7-month-old son was asleep nearby, police said.

Sept. 9, 2011, Mayumi Hashimoto, 44-year-old female, shot in the head by her live-in partner, David Henry, who then shot and killed himself, according to police reports.

May 15, 2011, Rosemary Comanse, 47, shot in the head at close range by her estranged husband, James, police said. He was visiting the home and went upstairs; shortly thereafter others in the house heard a loud boom. James also struck another family member with the gun before it could be taken from him.

April 9, 2010, Beverly Thompson, 62, died of blunt force trauma to the head inflicted by her husband, Douglas.

Jan. 16, 2011, Joseph Burton, 28, run over by his girlfriend's boyfriend, Alfred Vela (she had a relationship with both men), according to police reports.

Aug. 16. 2012, Michael VanDerLinden, of Portage, committed suicide by driving the wrong way on Interstate 94 after apparently killing his wife and two sons in their Belleville, Mich., home.

Sept. 16, 2011, Amanda Bach, 19, of Portage, shot by her ex-boyfriend, Dustin McCowan — her body was found in woods near his then-Union Township home. He recently was convicted of the crime.

May, 31, 2011, Cheryl Miller, 52, shot by her estranged husband, Frederick Miller, who then set their Pleasant Township house on fire and shot himself. Their 19-year-old son escaped the fire. She had filed for divorce and had a protective order — in April, he was removed from the home by police.

April 24, 2011, Cynthia Cashner, 50, of Portage, killed by her estranged husband, Fredrick, who fired at least eight bullets into her body with a high-powered semi-automatic rifle at the herbal shop she owned.

Sources: Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence and The Times files

Sunday, March 3, 2013

NW Indiana Flawed Domestic Violence Protective Order System - News Article

PAPER PROTECTION: Power and control dynamic sets batterers apart
March 03, 2013 8:57 pm
Monte Martin
NWI Times

In a follow-up visit to determine if TJ Myricks wanted to keep an order of protection she had against her abusive boyfriend in 2008, the young Gary woman went into a judge's chambers and pondered the jurist's questions:
Was she still in fear?
Did she want to keep the order of protection?

With no advocate present, and her abuser standing beside her, she lied, replying no to both.

"I didn't want the reaction from him," Myricks, 34, recalled. "Even though he probably would not have done anything right then and there … once we leave there …"

Not long afterward, the boyfriend resumed the abuse and shortly after one confrontation came knocking on doors and windows of Myricks' home. She braced herself against a bathroom door, calling police on her cellphone.

Her abusive boyfriend had entered the residence by throwing a hammer through a window. His search ended at the bathroom, where he forced the door open enough to strike Myricks with the hammer, leaving her bleeding from a head wound.

If she hadn't relinquished the protective order, she acknowledges, she probably wouldn't have been in that situation. A responding officer told Myricks she was lucky, that a high percentage of women who rescind the order of protection wind up dead.

Regardless, in the aftermath, Myricks still kept company with her abuser, whom she had known for nine years, ultimately doing the unthinkable.

She married him, readily pleading insanity.

"Crazy," she conceded. "I told no one. To this day, my mother doesn't even know that I was married to him."

The human behavior dynamics in domestic violence can be unfathomable, as Myricks' 180-degree turn suggests, which is why police find themselves in a vulnerable position responding to them.
"One (combatant) might be very angry or both," said Cmdr. Dan Kijurna of the Merrillville Police Department. "There may be weapons involved. You never know what you are walking into in one of these."

There are times, said Lt. Jeff Snemis, then commander of the Merrillville detective bureau, when a wife will want to have her abuser/husband arrested.

"So you start arresting him and he resists and he starts fighting us. You might get the wife jumping on your back. She's changed her mind," he said. "Emotions are highly charged, and usually bad behavior goes along with it."

"It is one of the least popular calls police go on," said Paul Haluska, a retired sheriff's police officer working in the Protective Order Assistance Program at the Lake County Government Center. "They don't like 'em. I know I didn't particularly like 'em when I was a cop, either.

"You go into these situations and you're dealing with all these dynamics. The people may have children in common, they may own property in common. (It's) he said, she said. And you've got to find enough probable cause to make an arrest."

Haluska, who has trained more than 2,000 officers in how to deal with domestic violence cases, knows from experience that simply counseling an abuse victim to leave the relationship is advice many would like to take, but can't because of finances, children or other factors.

In the three years he has worked in the county program as well as served on several domestic violence awareness boards, he has gained some insight into violence perpetrators.

"Batterers are not angry," he said. "They don't beat up their boss. They don't beat up their co-workers. They rarely want to fight that cop when he gets there. Batterers act angry to justify what they are doing. It's a power-and-control dynamic. As best as we know … and we've barely scratched the surface of taking these guys apart and figuring out what makes them tick … they're basically very insecure individuals or they grew up in a home (where there was abuse).

"They can't do anything about their boss. They can't do anything about the traffic on the way home. They can't do anything about how Congress is going to vote on this. But, by golly, I'm going to control this house."

There are times when Haluska is questioning an abuse victim that he'll cite so many common traits, the controlling behavior, the denigration of the victim, threats to take the children: "They'll go, 'do you know this guy?'

"No, but I know how he operates. There are certain traits all abusers have. The interesting thing is when, rarely, we do get a man (as a victim), there's no difference in the male and female abuser. The female abuser will do the exact same things the male abuser will do."

The one thing many women victims have in common is that they "prize relationships. Women will hold families together, not men," said Haluska, pointing out they will try to keep a relationship going despite repeated physical assaults.

Myricks, who authored a book about her experiences called, "Phat Phat Memoirs," was a case in point.

Her batterer once told her much of his aggression toward her stemmed from his broken relationship with his mother, an alleged substance abuser. An abuse victim himself, he had a negative view of women but professed a sex addiction, Myricks said.

He had three relationships with three other women, fathering children by all three, she said. When she confronted him with the knowledge of his other affairs, she said he told her, "They don't mean anything. You're the main one. But I didn't want to be the main. I wanted to be the only one."

Domestic battery victim assistance clinic a 'baptism of fire'
The "baptism by fire" that Valparaiso University Law School students get in professor Geneva Brown's domestic violence clinic has Rachel Doty acknowledging "studying law and practicing law are vastly different" as she deals with domestic violence victims and the system to assist them.

"I can see how people can get burned out," said the 25-year-old third-year law school student from Greenwood, Ind., regarding overburdened court and clerical staff she has observed.

Most clients the undergraduate psychology major has encountered in her semester of the program have been either mad, distraught or withdrawn, not unlike what she saw as a domestic violence shelter volunteer. The difference is she has to quickly size up their case, gain trust and prepare herself and the client to appear before a judge almost immediately.

"Some are supertalkative," said Tajanae Mallett, a third-year law students, "and others it is like pulling teeth" to get details of their case. Learning to deal with different personalities from all walks of life is one of the most important lessons the Naperville, Ill., resident said she learned in the clinic.

Unlike Doty, and fellow VU clinic staffers like Sylviane Elessie, Caitlin Broo and Elizabeth Broadbent, who wants to continue working in the field, Mallett's undergraduate degree was in business. She aspires to be a corporate lawyer. But the experience was valuable nonetheless.

"There is such a wide range of domestic violence victims," Mallett said. "Anybody can find themselves in that situation."

Those who do can count on the VU students to help them fill out paperwork for orders of protection along with the staff of the Sheriff's Department Protective Order of Assistance Program.

The 4-year-old Lake County program was initiated by Judges John Pera and Lorenzo Arredondo, said Paul Haluska. Its caseload has risen each quarter since it started, he said, with more than 150 clients each quarter in the early going rising to 719 in the last half of 2012. College interns are assisting it this year, said Patti Van Til, the Lake County sheriff's spokeswoman.

The caseload surge is fueled, in part, by an increase in the number by men seeking orders of protection from their new girlfriend's ex-spouse or boyfriend and families seeking protection from a daughter's boyfriend who won't take no for an answer, Haluska said.

Statewide, the number of orders of protection cases have increased steadily since 2008, rising from the 32,484 courts disposed of then to 33,953 in 2009, 34,521 in 2010 and 35,774 in 2011, according to figures from the Indiana Supreme Court.

Few batterers respond to interventions
CROWN POINT - Days after she experience a domestic assault by her husband over the 2010 Thanksgiving weekend, Phyllis Roy, who suffered two skull fractures and multiple bruises, encountered him.

"What happened to you?" she said the man who eventually pleaded guilty to felony strangulation in the attack asked.

His reaction to Roy's appearance doesn't surprise Suzy Bonaventura, owner of Crown Counseling. It's typical of domestic batterers because they usually are in denial about what they did to their victim, she said.

"They don't get it," said Bonaventura, who has established a batterers' intervention group in Lake County with the help of the state's Department of Child Services. "They choose not to look at the issues.

"The other party is to blame. They don't even consider verbal abuse abusive nor the emotional abuse. They're not even taking that into account – that it is abuse."

She is convinced the only way the group has managed to keep its 18 clients coming back in the 26-week program is because DCS has mandated they participate.

"None of them think they should have to be here. It's all a mistake. It's a misunderstanding. They only did it once. Lots of excuses."

The numbers on the efficacy of the Duluth model program — the same used by the state — not surprisingly, are not encouraging.

"I hate to have to say it, but they come back low," said Bonaventura, adding batterers' intervention is virtually the only game in town.

Just as marriage counseling is no remedy because it implies both spouses contribute to the marriage's dysfunction, "anger management," she said, "is not the answer to the issues with batterers."

For the program to have any measure of success, she believes courts must begin mandating participation, perhaps as a community service component for batters' sentence.

NW Indiana Flawed Domestic Violence Protective Order System - News Article

PAPER PROTECTION: Delay is 'ultimate weapon' in batterer defense
March 03, 2013 - 12:00 am
Monte Martin
NWI Times

If delay is "the ultimate tactic" of defense attorneys in litigating domestic battery cases, then many alleged offenders in Lake County appear to be outflanking the courts, a state victim's advocate says.

Those delays — and a high number of domestic assault cases that are either dismissed up front or thrown out later — empower offenders to continue the cycle of abuse, said Kerry Hyatt Blomquist, legal director of the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Of the 1,426 domestic battery cases filed in the county from 2010 to 2012, 900 cases reached some form of conclusion, a Times investigation shows.

Of those 900 cases, 649, or 72 percent, were either dismissed outright or deferred, meaning defendants were given the ability to have the charges dismissed at a later date. That included 452 dismissals and 197 deferred cases.

Another 250 cases resulted in criminal convictions.

The rest — 526 filings — remain open cases, still winding their way through the court, according to Lake County Data Processing Department records.

Those numbers do not reflect the full extent of the problem in Gary, which does not participate in the county's data system.

The figures reveal 27.8 percent of batterers have pleaded to or been convicted of a misdemeanor and another 72 percent effectively have had the slate wiped clean on their criminal record.

Blomquist said the Lake County case deferrals, which totaled 197, do not represent "best practices."

Deferrals or diversions of cases ultimately allow the charges to be dismissed if defendants meet certain parameters set by the court, such as counseling. However, if they fail to meet the court's criteria, defendants then can be sentenced to jail or prison time.

"Prosecutors who choose to defer (in domestic battery cases) aren't using the law as it was intended. It's more for traffic offenses," Blomquist said.

Deferring justice?
Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter and his assistant, Peter Villarreal, defended the practice of deferring some domestic assault cases. In deferrals, an offender must meet court directives or face stiffer penalties.

This gives prosecutors something "to hold over" offenders' heads, the prosecutors said.

Blomquist argues that affording offenders the ability to wipe the slate clean diminishes the chances of imposing enhanced penalties in future actions. Since the crime is all about power and control, a repeat offense and arrest are pretty much a given, she said.

Complicating the prosecution of such cases is a frequent lack of victims willing to cooperate, Carter said.

A high percentage of victims return later after an initial filing of domestic battery to ask the case be dropped, Carter said.

"It gets diluted if the victim doesn't want to go along and cooperate, and come in and testify, things of that nature," Carter said. "That's when we go to the deferral. Most of our deferrals come about because we have no other choice, and we try to salvage something."

Little wonder why that happens, Blomquist said, because domestic violence is the only crime in which the victim and evidence go home with the perpetrator.

"If the perpetrator is in complete control of the finances, delay is the ultimate tactic, the ultimate weapon. You're literally starving them (the petitioner) out," she said.

Blomquist said the problem is worsened when judges grant delays and continuances in such cases.

The numbers confirm any domestic battery victim seeking swift justice and a speedy resolution in Lake County has come to the wrong place.

Six hearings per case
The 900 domestic battery dispositions over the three-year period of 2010 through 2012 prompted 8,560 hearings, an average of 6.2 court appearances per case. Some had as many as 27, 23 and 22 hearings each, but Carter said the delays aren't coming from his office.

"A continuance does not help the state. It never helps us," Carter said. "It gives an opportunity for our victim to recant or change her mind, or move on or say, 'I don't want nothing to do with it. I've found somebody else.' It gives so many different options where we might fail at the prosecution of the case."

Carter said none of his deputy prosecutors can continue a case. It has to be a supervisory decision based on evidence. If there is a defense move for a continuance, prosecutors are instructed to object at every hearing, Carter said.

Carter and his staff are well aware defense attorneys employ the delaying tactic to make even harder the already tough job of proving a domestic battery occurred all.

Carter suspects defense attorneys advise their clients to use that time to talk their victim out of pursuing charges and keep them from pursuing the case.

"If the victim is not willing to cooperate, it makes it very difficult for us as prosecutors to proceed," Carter said.

Blomquist, the sixth woman to be president of the Indianapolis Bar Association in 150 years, said a lack of cooperation from victims shouldn't deter prosecution. To say it does is a cop-out, she said.

The cases are unique, high-maintenance undertakings, she concedes, and are difficult to win, in part because there typically are only two witnesses — the victim and the abuser. Prosecutors have to treat domestic violence as an evidence-based prosecution, not victim-based, she said.

That includes photos, interviews, collecting evidence at the scene and treating the crime scene as if it were a murder with no victim to testify.

No witness, no chance?
The Lake County prosecutor's office has pursued cases without the victim's cooperation, using independent witnesses testifying about battery or intimidation, Carter said.

But such cases are rare. Just as in some murders where there are no reliable witnesses, police seldom submit such domestic assault cases to the prosecutor's office for charges.

"We've tried to proceed to trial without the (domestic battery) victim, and it doesn't work," Villarreal says. "Jurors really do want to see the victim."

There might be no reliable data to measure the success rate of such prosecutions. Even if there were, Blomquist remains skeptical of the numbers.

Statistics "don't represent what is going on out there," she said.

Times Investigative Editor Marc Chase contributed to this report.

Three-year case breakdown (2010-2012)
Lake County Courts (sans Gary courts), 2010-2012

1,426 -- Total domestic battery cases filed

900 – Total cases with some type of disposition (resolution)

526 – Unresolved cases or cases without a listed disposition (mostly open cases)

Of the 900 resolved cases (with a listed disposition)
52 – Dismissed outright or not prosecuted, 50.2%

250 – Finding of guilt (conviction, plea, probation, etc.), 27.8 %

197 – Deferred or pre-trial diversion program, 21.9 %

1 – Acquittal (not guilty verdict), 0.001%


NW Indiana Flawed Domestic Violence Protective Order System - News Article

PAPER PROTECTION: Persistent violations, bungled case shred faith in system
March 03, 2013 12:00 am
Monte Martin
NWI Times


CROWN POINT - Phyllis Roy believes her domestic battery case involved two assailants — her husband, who was convicted of the crime, and the legal system she says failed to protect her after the conviction.

Her husband pleaded guilty three years ago to felony strangulation following the bloody battering of Roy over the 2010 Thanksgiving holiday.

But the case did not end there.

She said she lost her opportunity to make a clean break with the defendant, Jerry Victor Gidrewicz, through harassing phone calls that violated a court order of protection she had against her husband.

Gidrewicz did not respond to two phone messages and a written request for comment left at his residence.

A Crown Point police report filed in 2010 by Officer David Wilkins details the original incident:

"Jerry began to strike her with a closed fist during the argument. Phyllis also stated that Jerry began to choke her and that made it difficult for her to (breathe). At that time, Phyllis attempted to leave the residence through a window, but Jerry was able to pull her back inside causing cuts and scrapes to Phyllis' legs and arms, which I was able to observe. Phyllis was eventually able to escape through the rear window."

Escape, that is, by being pushed through it, Roy said.

Days after the attack, Roy's daughter Ona drove her to the Lake County clerk's office, where she met Geneva Brown, a Valparaiso University Law School professor who runs a domestic violence clinic out of the county building. Brown and her students helped Roy obtain a court order of protection, barring Gidrewicz from coming into contact with Roy.

But eight Crown Point police reports dealing with their relationship indicate she has dealt with repeated violations of the order. They also show incidents on June 12 and Aug. 12, 2012, that prompted Gidrewicz to seek an order of protection against her. In one, Gidrewicz claims to have suffered bodily injuries. In the other, he claims Roy threatened his girlfriend.

"I'm going to counseling so I can better myself so I can overcome this, where he (Gidrewicz) just takes a back seat and thinks, 'This is another ride I'm on' … and it's a free ride," Roy said.

Roy wrote to a deputy prosecutor on Oct. 31, explaining why she wanted Gidrewicz jailed for violating his probation by disregarding her order of protection through harassing phone calls.

"I am terrified for my safety and deathly afraid that if Mr. Gidrewicz is released from jail he will attempt to kill me ...," Roy wrote in the letter. "I fear for my safety, so much so that I am willing to move and keep my whereabouts unknown to Mr. Gidrewicz. However, I am currently unable to do so. I plan to move within the next six months. If Mr. Gidrewicz remains in jail for the duration of his probation sentence, I would be able to work and earn money. … It would give me the peace of mind and the opportunity I need to move forward with my life."

Two days before her Dec. 6 court date on the matter, Roy offered her phone records to a deputy prosecutor who was scheduled to handle the hearing, but her offer was rejected.

During the hearing, Gidrewicz's public defender suggested that the only way Crown Point Officer Don Wasserman, who was on the witness stand, knew the phone number that appeared on Roy's cellphone was Gidrewicz's was because Roy had told him it was.

The attorney argued there was no real evidence tying the number in Roy's phone records to Gidrewicz.

Absent any records to prove otherwise, Judge Julie Cantrell rejected Roy's request to suspend Gidrewicz's probation.

But Judge Cantrell told Gidrewicz: "They (prosecutors) didn't do their homework. Doesn't mean I don't think you did it."

A distraught Roy pleaded with Cantrell to allow her to submit the phone records then, but it was too late.

Prosecutor Bernard Carter agreed there were avenues by which the evidence tying Gidrewicz to the harassing phone calls could have been introduced, but Cantrell did not allow it. He said the deputy prosecutors thought they could win the case with the preponderance of evidence and didn't need to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.

Contacted later, Cantrell said even if the court had found Gidrewicz in violation of his probation, he already had been in custody for the maximum suspended sentence under his agreement with the state.

Had he been the deputy on the case, Carter said he would have taken the records Roy had offered.

"That's a lesson they learned," Carter said, "and hopefully it will follow them through their legal careers."

Roy still has another case in Crown Point City Court against Gidrewicz, which the prosecutor says his office is mindful of.

"I don't need to express how frustrated she (Roy) is," said Brown, the law professor. "If it weren't for the sheer willpower of Phyllis, we would have lost her along the way. Because you lose clients based on frustration. … She is vigorous in her pursuit of trying to get justice in Lake County, and she has been frustrated at almost every turn."

Violence victim's 'credibility' issues aside, new order OK'd
CROWN POINT - Despite expressing his skepticism about Phyllis Roy's "credibility," Magistrate Robert Vann granted Roy a new order of protection against her batterer/husband Jerry Gidrewicz last week Monday, the day her old one expired.

After telling Tajanae Mallett, the third-year Valparaiso Law School student representing Roy, that "I know these people better than you do," Vann said a "Mr. Snow," an ex-boyfriend of Roy's divorced daughter, said in testimony from a custody hearing he had seen Gidrewicz and Roy together.

"I don't know why someone else would say they see you with him all the time," Vann said to Roy. She replied she didn't know anyone named Snow or what relationship he might have to her daughter.

The exchange wasn't unexpected. Roy estimated she has been before Vann around 20 times and professor Geneva Brown, Mallett's instructor, noted before the hearing that the Crown Point domestic violence victim has probably "pushed the limits of judicial patience" by seeking full payment of her medical expenses from a 2010 battering. Mallett gave Vann photos of Roy's injuries in that assault 20 minutes into the hearing.

Roy was granted reimbursement for medical expenses to treat those injuries by a previous court order and Gidrewicz has repeatedly pleaded poverty in numerous prior appearances.

Vann said he was granting the protective order request "only because that's the only way you'll stay away from each other," adding he was transferring all of her case, including the reimbursements, domestic battery and divorce to Gary, where Gidrewicz's lawyer filed for divorce.

Roy, a Crown Point resident, doesn't drive.

Outside of court, Brown seemed nonplussed by Vann's questioning of Roy's credibility when she is "an actual verified victim of domestic violence."

Nonfatal strangulation victims more likely to eventually be killed
NAMPA, Idaho - Women who have been strangled are seven times more likely to wind up as murder victims.

But when police arrive to investigate domestic violence, those women aren't likely to report the strangulation. Nearly half of all domestic violence murder victims experience at least one nonfatal strangulation, according to officials at the National Strangulation Training Institute. The institute aims to have 5,000 U.S. officers complete its online training by March 31.

Victims tend to be too afraid or embarrassed to mention that they've been strangled and perpetrators tend to downplay strangulation or choking, as if it's inconsequential compared to hitting, officials said.

Detective Cpl. Angela Weekes, of the Nampa, Idaho, force, said 62 percent of strangulation victims don't have external marks. Officers are now trained to assess domestic violence cases according to risk indicators, of which attempted strangulation is one of the four leading danger signs. The others are forced sex, a recent separation and extreme possessiveness. 
     ~ Associated Press