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3 Domestic Violence Murders in as Many Years Highlight Ongoing Problem, Advocates Say

Kim Conover, the Petaluma woman killed on Sunday by her husband, had sought out a restraining order, but then changed her mind and told a Family Law judge she didn't want it anymore.

Over the past three years, all murders that have occurred in Petaluma have been domestic violence-related, pointing to a serious problem in the community, say advocates.

In 2010, , a 37-year old Thai immigrant was shot in the face by her husband after he learned she was having an affair. Her husband is now on trial, although he says he shot the petite Buapha is self-defense.

Last July, Marin County Sheriff’s Deputy , along with the gunman, after he went to the Liberty Lane home of a friend whose boyfriend was stalking her after she told him the relationship was over.

On Sunday, 43-year-old Kim Conover became the latest victim, evidence that domestic violence exists in every community, no matter how otherwise peaceful or affluent, according to domestic violence experts.

“Domestic violence is the number one cause of injury for women in the United States and it crosses all cultural and economic lines,” said Jacque Reid, a navigator at the Family Justice Center in Santa Rosa, a one-stop shop run by Sonoma County where victims can apply for a restraining order, find shelter and if they are not citizens or permanent residents of the U.S. obtain legal and procedural advice from a bilingual caseworker.

“Sometimes when you live in a community where the neighbors aren’t as close, no one knows about what’s going because they are less likely to hear it,” Reid said.

Facing an abusive husband, Kim Conover tried to get a restraining order from the local courts, but then suddenly reversed course and asked that her request be dropped, according to court records.

At a March 27 hearing at the Sonoma County Superior Court Family Law division, Conover said that she no longer needed a restraining order. Then, after another altercation with her estranged husband, she changed her mind and sought an emergency restraining order from the Petaluma Police, which was denied by a Sonoma County judge. (Patch is trying to find out why)

Less than a week later Conover was dead, killed by her husband who then turned the gun on himself.

Reached by phone, Jeffrey Zimmerman, Kim Conover’s divorce attorney confirmed that she had pulled her restraining order application, but said he could not divulge as to why due to attorney-client privileges.

But Jennifer Lake, a director of operations at the YWCA of Sonoma County, which receives 2,500 hotline calls each year and houses 210 women and children fleeing domestic violence, says this happens all too often. 

“There could be many reasons for it: threats to herself, the family or their children, threats of fleeing with the children and not seeing them or promises to leave her alone or feeling it would get better,” Lake said.

If Conover had succeeded in getting a restraining order, her husband's weapons would have been removed from his home as well as prevented him from purchasing new ones, potentially averting the tragedy.

"It's true that a restraining order is just a piece of paper, but it’s one tool among many and it’s important because it’s one step toward empowering victims," Lake said.

Experts say that the height of danger for a victim is when they finally leave their abuser, as Conover did several months ago moving to her parents home in West Petaluma. This is the time when an abuser often feels threatened and goes into panic mode, she said.

“We have to educate the community about the dynamics of domestic violence and what a healthy relationship looks like…but to this day people who have not experienced it don’t believe it’s happening in their backyard. The issue is minimized.”

At the Sonoma County Family Justice Center, located in Santa Rosa and which opened last fall, victims of domestic violence are matched up with a “navigator” who guides them through available resources, whether or not they want to press charges. But funding has been extremely tight and cuts have left just four trained domestic violence advocates who serve the entire county.

“What these murders say to me that there needs to be more focus on advocacy services for victims of domestic violence,” Lake said. “If they get the support they need, they can continue on the journey of getting restraining orders, otherwise they are left to their own devices.”

Darris April 18, 2012 at 06:08 PM
All weapons are SUPPOSED to be removed but that absolutely has not happened 100% even when law enforcement has had knowledge of a weapon. I hope that this has tightened up 100% in the past few years. There needs to be more training in domestic violence matters. Unless there is a bloody body law enforcement often moves on to what they see as more critical issues. I understand that they are stretched to the max for manpower but we can no longer take any DV situation lightly. The family courts are another opportunity for change. We now have new judges sitting on the bench so I can't speak to what's happening in family court currently. Hopefully the courts are taking DV situations much more seriously than they have in the past few years. Family court used to be one more opportunity for abuse as a DV victim. Advocacy and support for DV victims trying to navigate the system is critical but let's not forget about the perpetrator. If we truly want to stop the cycle the person committing the violence needs help too.
Karina Ioffee April 18, 2012 at 06:38 PM
Thanks for pointing this out. I just used 3 years back as a starting point for the conversation.
Cindy Thomas April 18, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Thank you for starting this conversation, Karina.
Fenella Das Gupta PhD Neuroscience, MFT April 19, 2012 at 03:12 PM
Many victims of DV do not leave their partners because they believe that the parent is a good, loving person to the children AND that the “mistake” that precipitated the violence was a silly mistake that can easily be remedied by “ not doing it again”. It’s important to remember that even though the perpetrator may be a good and loving parent, if the child witnesses the DV it causes tremendous emotional stress. So much so, that Child Protective Services may remove the children if need be. Children who witness violence between parents are at risk. At risk, of being victims themselves or of repeating these behaviors as adults. Please also note that men are also subject to DV by women. But often socially this is ignored.
teri stoddard April 21, 2012 at 10:08 PM
It disturbs me greatly to see a local DV advocate quoting fake statistics in the press. This: "Domestic violence is the number one cause of injury for women in the United States" IS NOT TRUE. I'd like to see everyone at the Family Justice Center get retrained, with real facts, scientific facts about DV. SAVE offers accreditation. http://www.saveservices.org And I'd REALLY like to see this author write a factual article about DV. How about mentioning the half of victims who are male? Forty percent of victims hurt bad enough to visit a hospital are MEN. And women are MORE likely to emotionally abuse their partner than men. Visit our website for the whole story.

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