The Days After

Arnessa Garrett | Assistant Metro Editor

When the Rev. Tony DeRouen thinks of his daughter, he doesn't think of the girl who was intimidated and worried and scared all the time. He remembers her talent for acting, how good she was with kids, the way she prayed with her whole heart, how she liked to bake. "I miss chocolate cake," he said. Kristy was 19 when she was shot to death in February 2004 by her boyfriend, Alan Ledet, outside the family's Gateway Christian School in St. Martinville.

In a year, domestic violence affects hundreds of families in our community. It often happens behind closed doors, where no one can see. So it's easy to think of it as someone else's problem - the neighbor down the street or the co-worker across the hall.

It's time to break the silence.

Imagine what it's like to be a father feeling helpless trying to protect his daughter.

For most of her 19 years, Kristy was fearless and full of life, her father said.

In a second-grade trip to the zoo, Kristy was the only one who took up the zookeeper's invitation to see an alligator up close, he remembered. Tony DeRouen still smiles at the picture of his little girl sitting on the reptile's back.

But when she started dating Alan Ledet, a 41-year-old reserve police officer, her demeanor changed.

"She started losing weight, she was nervous, she couldn't sleep," her father remembers.

Doctors, police officers, prosecutors and judges deal with the effects of domestic violence every day. Each day, arrests are made. Each day, cases are prosecuted. The numbers are staggering, but in the daily flow of keeping up with the caseload, they rarely have time to talk to one another.

It's time to break the silence.

The father's voice is tinged with disbelief as he recalled the ordinary way that day began. Kristy was at her job as an assistant teacher in one of the school's front classrooms.

Tony DeRouen said he saw Ledet drive up to the school as he was going into the building to get a ladder from the attic.

"When I came out of the attic, Kristy was on the ground. I saw the red under one arm," DeRouen said.

DeRouen said he ran to his daughter and lifted her shirt.

"That's when I saw the three bullet holes in her," he said. "She was still alive when I went to her. I held her hard."

In the year since Kristy's death, the family has been invited to tell her story to groups aiming to end domestic violence. Somewhere, they have found the strength.

Breaking the silence is hard.

Tears spring to the eyes of Kristy's mother, Connie, when she thinks about that day. Kristy's youngest brother, Jesse, who was 10 at the time, says he sometimes has nightmares about his sister's death. He keeps a box of memories from Kristy - her Scooby Doo trinkets and items that were on her casket.

Her sister, Rachelle, 18, said she has learned much about relationships, including "if he threatens you, don't keep it a secret."

Tony DeRouen said after Kristy's death, he learned from people in the neighborhood that Ledet had a violent history.

He wonders why they didn't tell him.