Death by Love

A series of articles on domestic violence victims murdered by a lover or spouse.  Originally printed in The Times, Munster, IN, in 1995.

Women Who Paid the Ultimate Price

The barrage of O.J. Simpson jokes, TV specials and merchandise has obscured the fact that prior to her death, Simpson's ex-wife, Nicole, was a victim of an all-too-common form of violence.

Thousands of women each day suffer the pain and indignity of being physically abused by the person they love. Often they are left with black eyes and bruises. Sometimes they die.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a few weeks set aside each year to draw attention to this often-hidden problem.

Over the next three days, The Times will introduce you to some local victims of domestic homicide. You will meet Melissa Van Blaricum, Atina Rodriguez and Jamie Nixon, as well as other women who were your neighbors not so long ago.

They worked in your community, shopped in your grocery or worshipped beside you on Sunday.

You may not have known them when they were alive, but you will know them now.

"We have to let people know she was here on Earth," said Ed Van Blaricum, Melissa's father. "We don't want her to be forgotten."

Warning Signs of Potential Abuse

How can a woman spot a potential spouse abuser? Are there telltale signs?

Research and clinical literature reveal that many wife batterers think and act in similar ways. Here are a few warning signs which may help women avoid abusive relationships. If many of these traits describe your potential mate, be wary of deeper involvement.

He needs you - and needs to control your decisions

Does he need you too much? Does he try to control your time and attention?

Is he concerned about too many details of your daily life - for example, the places you go, the people you know, your use of money or time, your choice of clothing and makeup, etc.? Does it seem like you have to answer too many
questions? Follow too many instructions?

Abusive men try to hold their intimate partner on a close rein. They may need to show ownership of their partner. These men are quick to accuse their partners of being unfaithful or flirtatious.

He shows you hostility

Does he seem more hostile when no one else is around? Does he give you the silent treatment? Would others be shocked or alarmed by the things he says or does to you? An abuser may not show this kind of hostility in public. Some abusers keep up a "nice guy" image for everyone else, then change abruptly in private. Even silence can be hostile.

You "made" him do it - and it wasn't so bad

Does your partner blame you or others for causing his feelings? Does he excuse or deny any harm he does? Batterers rarely take responsibility for their own actions or their consequences. They tend to blame other people and circumstances. If they do admit causing harm, they are likely to say that something or someone made them do it - perhaps it was stress, or the beer, or the cocaine, or the woman herself: "She pushed me to it; I warned her not to get me so mad."

He thinks men should dominate women

Does your partner think men need to dominate to be manly? Is he particularly sensitive about his masculinity? Does he expect you to perform traditional female roles? Is he critical about how well you perform domestic roles? Is he overly focused on your sexuality? Many abusive men believe in rigid, traditional gender roles in which males have authority over females.

His parents or relatives were abusive or violent

When your partner was a child, did he witness his father beating his mother?

Is wife abuse common in his culture? Was he abused as a child, or were his siblings abused? Batterers may also excuse abuse because it is a familiar pattern. Research suggests that a large percentage of male batterers come from abusive, violent families.

He abuses drugs or alcohol

Does he get drunk or high on drugs regularly? Does he seem more irritable or aggressive when drunk or high? A large percentage of spouse abusers are also abusers of either drugs or alcohol. Being high is often used as an excuse for his behavior.

You are afraid when he is angered

Does your partner have a quick temper? Is he easily frustrated, stressed or provoked? Does he lash out verbally or physically? Has he threatened you? Does he intimidate you about leaving him or "cheating" on him? The typical abuser lives in terror of abandonment. He may tell his partner that she will be very sorry if she is not loyal.

He has been violent in other intimate relationships or circumstances

Do you know about his past? Was he violent with previous female partners? Has he assaulted men, children, pets or objects? Does he have an arrest or jail record? Has he ever coerced you into sex? While a portion of spouse batterers are violent only in relationship to women, others have acted aggressively in more than one way.

Source: The above checklist was written and provided to The Times by Dr. Marcia Petchers, an associate professor of social work at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. She has served on the board of the Center for Prevention of Domestic Violence and is conducting research on battered women, male batterers and the effects of family violence on children.

Why She Stays

Whenever we read or hear about women who have been in abusive relationships for years, the first question we ask is, "Why does she stay?"

The answer is never simple, but often involves some or all of the following reasons:

Many women feel they provoked the abuse, or are worried they will be branded a "failure" if the marriage or relationship ends. She may also believe that her children need their father.

Learned helplessness
This is the belief of many women that they have no power or control over the situation. Often, this is a result of a previous attempt to leave being blocked by police, counselors, friends or relatives. It is very difficult for a woman in this situation to recognize that she does have options.

Emotional dependence
Despite the abuse, many women still love their partner, and their sense of worth and approval is linked to him. She may also want to avoid the social stigma of a divorce or broken relationship.

Financial dependence
Some women in abusive relationships may have no or few jobs skills, and a fear that she will not be able to support herself and her children if she leaves. She may not have a car or any money of her own.

Many women are afraid of being on their own, or being found and beaten again by their partner, or are worried about their children's safety. Many women hope that this time will be the last time he beats her.

A Region's Pain

Domestic homicide has touched almost every community in Northwest Indiana. Following are the names and stories of area victims in recent years.

Died April 16, 1993 - Gary

Candelaria, 35, was at home with her two children when her live-in boyfriend, Eddie Jerome Mills, 39, became angry and started storming around the house. Modesto Candelaria, her 15-year-old son, was watching television in the next room when he heard a gunshot. He found his mother lying on the floor and Mills cocking a .25-caliber semiautomatic handgun. Mills then shot Modesto in the face. The boy fell to the ground and played dead until Mills left. The boy survived. His mother was pronounced dead at the scene. Mills was convicted of murder.

Died Aug. 4, 1991 - East Chicago

Neighbors were startled when gunshots rang out in their quiet East Chicago neighborhood. Manuel Cartagena had shot his wife of 24 years, Marta, then turned the gun on himself. The two had just separated pending a divorce. They had three teen-age children: Luis, Jose and Julio. Migdalia Delgado, who once lived in an apartment downstairs from the Cartagenas, said she often had heard the couple argue. Manuel had threatened his wife "many times," Delgado said. "She had left about three weeks ago and had been in hiding."

Died Dec. 19, 1993 - Portage

After neighbors reported a disturbance in progress, Portage police found Annetta Depew, 41, and Jack W. Depew Jr., 37, dead in their Portage home. Jack had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, according to the Porter County coroner's office. Annetta died of a shot to the neck.

Died Jan. 4, 1992 - Highland

Greg Ellis, 31, murdered his wife, Margaret "Margie" Ellis, 27, in their kitchen after she asked him for a divorce. The butcher for a Michigan City supermarket stabbed his wife twice in the chest, four times in the back and once in the arm. Then he went to the basement of their Highland home and slashed himself across the stomach in a suicide attempt. The couple's two children, an 8-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy, were not home at the time. Greg pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter. He had originally been charged with murder. He is serving a 30-year prison term.

Died Oct. 2, 1991 - Hammond

Carrying a pistol-stock shotgun, Jacob Evans walked confidently into Hammond City Hall and fatally shot his estranged wife, Kim. He then took his own life. As Jacob, 42, pointed the gun at her, a witness said the man told his estranged wife, "Bitch, why did you do it? Bitch, you're going to pay." Kim, 35, had been staying at The Caring Place, a battered woman's shelter near Valparaiso. She had tried to break away from her abusive husband and had filed for divorce. But after she took her 14-year-old daughter and left for the shelter, Jacob started stalking them.

Died April 24, 1994 - Valparaiso

Apparently angered by his wife Ann's divorce filing, Kenneth Flickinger accosted her and her family in the parking lot of a Valparaiso grocery store. Robert Nicholson, Ann's father, pulled a gun and pointed it at Flickinger, telling his wife, Paula, to call police. But Kenneth wrestled the weapon from him and shot him once in the chest, then chased Ann, 25, through the crowded parking lot, firing repeatedly. Ann was hit once in the back and fell to the ground. Kenneth ran up to her and shot her in the head at point-blank range. Kenneth led police on a 10-mile chase before wrecking his van at County Roads 425 East and 600 North. As police surrounded his vehicle, he shot and killed himself. Ann's family survived.

Died Aug. 10, 1993 - Gary

Jones was shot to death by her estranged husband, Edrow Jones, both of Gary. Edrow had a history of trying to trace his wife's movements. On that day, he had hidden behind the front porch of her home, waiting for her to arrive. When she walked toward her front door, he shot her twice in the head. Edrow was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Died Oct. 15, 1993 - Munster

When Bricine Locquaio was shot to death in her Munster home, she was in the middle of what had become for her a routine event - dialing 911. Her ex-husband, Asterio Locquaio, 47, of Lockport, Ill., is in Lake County Jail awaiting a Dec. 16 hearing at which his trial date will be set in the murder of his 47-year-old wife and her fiance, Peter Zatorski, 47. One of Bricine's former neighbors said she witnessed some of the abuse that led Bricine to call Tinley Park police seven times in three years for problems with Asterio. Both Bricine and Asterio Locquaio were chemical engineers. They had two children - Armand, born in 1975, and Jeremy, born in 1984.

Died Aug. 8, 1991 - Gary

Police found Kimberly Modisette, 36, stabbed in the chest and back when they answered a call at her Gary home. Her boyfriend, Fred Starks, 49, was sitting on the steps with cuts on his hands and blood on his clothing. Kimberly was taken to Methodist Hospital in Gary, where she later died. Fred was charged with murder.

Died July 31, 1991 - East Chicago

Teresa Montemayor was shot to death by her estranged husband, Mark, at friend's Hammond home where she had sought refuge. Mark Montemayor, an East Chicago police officer, then turned the gun on himself. Earlier that day, East Chicago Police Chief George Pabey suspended Mark and told police to pick him up and take his gun after he had sexually assaulted his wife with the 9mm semiautomatic pistol. Mark murdered his wife and killed himself less than five hours later - before his fellow officers took his gun. Teresa's lawyer was on the way to take her to a shelter for battered women. The couple's two young daughters were present at the shooting. One daughter has since died of natural causes. The day after the murder-suicide, the East Chicago Police Department was criticized for lowering its American flag to half staff and draping the police station entrance in black and purple bunting in mourning for Mark. The couple was buried side by side in silver and bronze caskets.

Died Feb. 12, 1993 - Hebron

"My God, Sharon, we've been shot. He shot us all." Sandy Yelachich managed to gasp that one final plea for help to neighbor Sharon Harder before collapsing on Harder's porch with a bullet in her back. Her daughter's jilted boyfriend, Mark Francis, had just walked into their home and begun blasting away with a 9mm pistol, a rampage over a broken engagement that left three dead and another critically injured. Inside the Yelachich home, Michelle Yelachich, 20, lay in her bedroom, shot in the head. The former Hebron High School cheerleader died two days later at Porter Memorial Hospital in Valparaiso. Her mother Sandy, 41, was pronounced dead on arrival. Michelle's father, Michael Yelachich, 47, was shot several times, but survived. Mark, a 25-year-old ex-Marine with a history of mental problems and run-ins with police, lay in his girlfriend's bedroom with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He died later at Porter Memorial.

What Domestic Violence Does to Children

All children from families of domestic violence have a strong desire to have the violence stop. When it does not stop, children often experience shame, guilt, fear, loyalty conflicts, anger and dvepression and anxiety.

  • The rate of child abuse is from 6 to 15 times higher in families where the mother is abused than in families where the mother is not abused.

  • Of women coming to shelters, more than half report that their children are also physically, emotionally and, sometimes, sexually abused.
  • Many battered women report that their abusers threaten or attack their children as a way to control and hurt the mothers even more.
  • Studies of abused children reveal that almost half of them have mothers who are also abused, making wife abuse the single strongest identifiable risk factor for child abuse.


Agencies That Offer Help

The following agencies offer crisis help and services to domestic violence victims in the area:

The Rainbow, Gary
(219) 886-1600

The Ark, Gary
(219) 882-0021

Haven House, Hammond
(219) 931-2090

The Stepping Stone, Michigan City
(219) 879-4615

Rensselaer Crisis Center for North Central Rural Indiana
(219) 866-8825 Shelter
(219) 933-0374 Hot Line

The Caring Place, Valparaiso
(800) 933-0466

South Suburban Family Shelter, Inc.
(708) 335-4125 Office
(708) 335-3028 Hot Line

Project Protect
(312) 435-1007 Office
(708) 519-2084 Hot Line

A Friend's Place
(800) 603-4357

Crisis Center for South Suburbia
(708) 429-7255 Office
(708) 429-7284 Hot Line

1995 Dart Award Final Judges

Craig DeZern
Insight Editor, Orlando Sentinel, Orlando, Florida

Dr. Mathew Friedman
President-elect, International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

Linda Harkness
Director, Michigan Victim Alliance

Jeanne Tempest
Editor, The Granite State News, Wolfboro, New Hampshire