Part one of two parts
Every 15 seconds a woman is beaten by her husband or boyfriend in the United States.
More people are booked into the Spokane County jail for domestic violence than any other crime.
Police scanners squawk the details every night: A child calls 911 as he watches his father beat his mother. An ex-boyfriend appears on the front porch, violating a court order. A family fight spills into the street.
South Hill or North Idaho. New subdivision or rundown apartment. The calls roll in from everywhere.
In the newsroon of The Spokesman-Review, these calls over the scanner are ignored unless someone starts shooting or stabbing. They’re just too common. On three recent nights, reporters and photographers started paying attention. They rode with police, to see as many domestic violence scenes as possible. They visited a victims’ shelter. Here’s what is happening where you live:
`I shouldn’t have gone to sleep’
Rob Ketchum beat up his live-in girlfriend because the groceries weren’t put away when he got home from work.
Slumped on a torn sofa, Ketchum, 32, explained the assault to two Spokane police officers who showed up at his house Saturday night Jan. 28 after a 911 call.
“You’re goddamn right I hit her,” Ketchum said loudly, fumbling with a cigarette. “I wanted to know why the hell the food wasn’t put away and there she was sleeping. I got pissed off.”
In another room, a third police officer talked to Ketchum’s 30-year-old girlfriend. She lifted her nightshirt to reveal a splotchy, red welt on her leg.
“He punched me in the face a bunch of times too,” she said, tears smearing her face. “I can’t believe he did this.”
The fight marred the couple’s first night in a newly purchased house on East Olympic. Ketchum’s girlfriend said she got tired unloading boxes and took a nap with their 2-year-old daughter.
The man she’s loved for four years woke her with blows all over her body.
“I dialed 911 but he hung it up and then that made him more pissed,” she told police.”When you guys called back, he answered and said everything was fine.”
When police showed up, they listened for several minutes on the front stoop before clinking a silver door knocker bearing the words, “God Bless Our Home.”
“All you do is sit on your ass,” they heard Ketchum say. “I just bought you a friggin’ house and you gotta take care of it, OK? I mean give me a goddamn break here, OK?”
Once inside, police tried to calm Ketchum and told him he’d have to go to jail on suspicion of fourth-degree assault. His daughter huddled on a couch across the room, staring wide-eyed at the officers. Ketchum looked at her and reached out his arms.
“Come here, Boo-Boo,” he said. A cigarette bounced between his lips. “Come over here.”
The toddler stretched her pink nightgown over her knees and buried her face in the cushions. “No,” she whispered.
Ketchum stood, put his hands behind his back and screamed in pain as police slapped on handcuffs. His girlfriend darted from the other room.
“Don’t do that to him,” she said. “You can’t do that to him, it hurts him. He’s had surgery. Please.”
The officers loosened the handcuffs and started to lead Ketchum outside. His girlfriend grabbed a prescription pill bottle and shook it.
“He needs these, he’s got to have his medicine,” she said, trotting after them. “Can you stop for a second so he can take these?”
Patrolman William Hager paused long enough to drop two pills in the man’s mouth. As they passed through the doorway, Ketchum turned to face his girlfriend.
“It’s our first night in a brand new home and we’re walking out like this,” he hissed. “Thanks a lot.”
Alone the next day, his bruised girlfriend unpacked boxes and looked forward to Ketchum coming home.
She said it was the first time he’d ever hit her, and she wanted to talk to him and figure out what went wrong. The move has him under a lot of stress, she said.
“I guess I didn’t get enough accomplished yesterday while he was at work,” she said. “I shouldn’t have gone to sleep.”
She said she also shouldn’t have called 911 because Ketchum would have calmed down and then he wouldn’t be in jail. He didn’t mean to hurt her, she said.
“I’m not ready to throw four years away just because of one fight,” she said. “He won’t hit me again. Last night was the first and last time.”
Ketchum returned home from jail in time for Monday night dinner. He apologized for losing his temper. His girlfriend promised to work harder on the new house. They spent a quiet evening with their daughter and agreed to forget the incident. “We’re starting over,” she said.
`She was attacking me, going crazy’
Four policemen huddled around Deanna Latting in the hallway of her tiny West Central apartment early Sunday, Jan. 29.
“What happened to your face?” one asked, shining his flashlight at a swollen lower lip and a pair of matching purple puffs under her eyes.
“I hit my face against the wall,” Latting said, choking out each word through heavy sobs. She pawed at the tears spilling down her face and jerked her hand away in pain.
“Now why would you do something like that, Deanna?” the officer said softly. “Why?”
“Because I hate myself,” she said simply. “Because nobody loves me.”
Outside, other officers handcuffed Todd Lindquist, 25, who admitted hitting his former girlfriend “to get her off me.” A bloody gash on the side of his neck glistened under the porch light.
“I pushed her around, I admit that,” Lindquist said. “But she was attacking me, going crazy. You should have seen her …”
A neighbor called 911 after hearing Latting, 17, scream for help, police said. The caller thought the couple’s 8-month-old daughter was with them, but she was staying the night with a sitter.
Police calmed Latting for 15 minutes before she would admit Lindquist hit her. The two separated a few weeks ago after living together for more than two years, she said.
He hit her several times with his fists and bashed a Black Velvet bottle over her head and across her face, Latting said.
“He kept saying he hated me and he was going to kill me and that he hated my baby,” she panted, spewing the words faster. “He usually hits me and I never call the cops because I’m afraid he’ll just beat me up again. But if you didn’t come this time I’d probably be dead.”
Suddenly, Latting needed to throw up. She said Lindquist made her four strong drinks before they went cruising downtown and now she didn’t feel well.
They started fighting when he wanted to come home and she didn’t, Lindquist said in jail the next day.
Latting hit him several times on the right arm and shoulder while he was driving and kept grabbing the steering wheel, he said.
Once he pulled up to her apartment, he said he saw her slam the car door into a telephone pole, causing a dent. Inside, she started throwing his beer around the kitchen, he said.
“I didn’t punch her,” Lindquist insisted. “I was trying to keep her away from me.”
Latting also jumped on his back, knocking him to the carpet and causing rug burns on his nose and forehead, he said.
Both were arrested. It would be Lindquist’s second domestic violence charge. The first came more than a year ago, when Latting was six months pregnant.
She said her lover got drunk and kicked her repeatedly in the stomach, saying he wanted to kill her baby. He denied it.
“That was the first time I called the cops but it wasn’t the first time he’d hit me,” she said. “He’s broken my nose before, too.”
Later that morning, Latting ate chocolate pie at her apartment and watched her daughter, Melanie, gurgle happily in an infant swing. Because she is a juvenile, Latting didn’t have to go to jail for her part in the assault.
The purple streaks beneath her eyes had darkened. Dried blood clung to her lip. An open red sore poked out of the corner of her eye.
She said her head still hurt from being hit with the bottle.
She planned to get a restraining order against Lindquist first thing Monday morning.
“I don’t know what else to do,” Latting said, glancing at a family photograph on the otherwise empty wall above her couch. “I don’t want to be walking around all my life with black eyes.”
In jail, Lindquist said he wanted nothing more to do with his former girlfriend. She’s the one who initiates violence during their fights, and outweighs him by 20 pounds, he said.
He blamed their problems on one thing: “She just loves me too much.”
Latting filed a restraining order against Lindquist in Superior Court on Monday. The two spoke curtly and briefly when Lindquist got out of jail and returned to her apartment to get his car. They haven’t seen each other since. “It’s over,” Latting said. “I don’t care if he drops dead.”
`All of a sudden he went ballistic’
Cindy Simpson’s brown hair lay in clumps on the floor.
Blood streaked the white towel that she gently pressed to her swollen nose.
“After he got you to the front door, then he punched you in the nose?” asked Kootenai County Sheriff’s Deputy Don Kline.
“Yah. He was dragging me by my hair and kicking me,” she said, tenderly adjusting her bent glasses. “I stood up and he punched me in the nose.”
The beating Simpson took early Sunday, Jan. 29, wasn’t the first for the 36-year-old woman.
It wasn’t the first time Darrell Heller, 36, found himself going to jail, accused of attacking a woman.
It was, however, the first time Simpson called deputies for help.
“When it happened this time, I said this is enough,” she explained hours later as she nursed her sore muscles and bruises. “I actually think if I stayed with Darrell, he would have killed me.”
Simpson and Heller have lived together on and off for a couple of years at his mother’s home north of Coeur d’Alene.
Simpson said her boyfriend blew up at her Saturday afternoon - angry she didn’t have the money he wanted from her child-support check and angry she was planning to leave.
He snatched Simpson’s truck keys, wrapped his hands around her throat, and threatened her with a hunting knife before leaving, she said.
Stranded without her keys, Simpson stayed with Heller’s 61-year-old mother. After an evening of drinking, Heller came home ready to fight, she said.
“All of a sudden he went ballistic on me,” she said slowly.
As Heller ripped his girlfriend’s hair and pummeled her, his gray-haired mother tried to step in, Simpson said.
“She tried to stay in between us as much as possible so he wouldn’t hit me,” Simpson said, adding the older woman even faked an injury.
“She said, `I think you broke my leg, Darrell,”’ Simpson explained. “While he was helping her I got out the door.”
Simpson fled to a neighbor’s and called deputies. She followed two Kootenai County sheriff’s deputies back to her boyfriend’s home so she could place him under citizen’s arrest.
As deputies pulled up to Heller’s house, he stormed out the door, heading straight for Deputy Kline.
Fear flashing across her face, Simpson backed away across the dark front yard.
“You’re going to arrest me for something I ain’t got nothing to do with?” Heller yelled at Kline as the burly deputy grabbed him and forced him to put his hands on the patrol car.
“I place you under arrest for battery,” Simpson said quietly as Kline clicked the handcuffs in place.
“Can I place her under arrest too?” Heller asked. “She fought back.”
As the deputy eased him into the back of the patrol car, Heller pleaded with his girlfriend to come with him.
“Cindy, Cindy, would you follow me here?”
She only stared at him.
At the Kootenai County Jail, three deputies restrained Heller as they searched him.
“I’ve never hit her,” he said from his holding cell. “I didn’t bloody her nose. I don’t know where that came from.”
Heller was arrested for domestic battery in 1989 after he allegedly kicked his former girlfriend in the back. Deputies found the woman lying on the floor of a motel room, unable to move.
Heller told police she had merely fallen down. The charge was later dismissed.
In 1991 he pleaded guilty to assault. His mother, Joan Heller, told deputies that her son came home drunk and began threatening to hurt her and her elderly mother.
Back at the house, Joan Heller invited her son’s most recent accuser to stay the night. She and Simpson sat at the kitchen table as Kline urged the bleeding woman to follow through with charges.
“First of all, 8 o’clock (Monday) morning call the prosecutor’s office,” Kline said as Simpson picked at the torn hair. “Don’t forget to go down there. You don’t go down there, he goes free. I can’t emphasize that to you enough.”
“I’ll be there,” Simpson said confidently.
“Take care of yourself,” Kline said, flashing her an encouraging smile.
The prosecutor’s office filed a battery charge against Heller. Simpson applied for a domestic violence protection order, but moved out of state when Heller’s mother bailed him out of jail. Simpson said she still intends to press charges.
`My mom and Frank … I locked them both out’
A 9-year-old boy wearing white baggy underwear flung open the front door to three Spokane policemen and walked immediately back to his room.
“I was sleeping,” he said, rubbing a dimpled hand over a nest of tousled blond hair. He climbed into his bed. It was 2 a.m. Feb. 4.
“We got a 911 call that someone was fighting,” said Patrolman Jamie Pavlischak, opening a hall closet door and peering inside. “Did you call 911? Who was fighting?”
“My mom and Frank,” the boy said, wrapping a red comforter around him. “They fought again and he pushed her and I locked them both out.”
“Where are they now?” Pavlischak called from another room, still opening doors and flinging the beam from his flashlight around.
“I don’t know,” the child said. He flipped his bedroom light off and shut the door.
Pavlischak and the others went outside. A thin woman walked out of a neighbor’s house and announced she was the one who called 911. Her name was Dorothy Baines and she said she was pushed and scratched by her live-in boyfriend of two years, Frank Grassel.
The officers shined their flashlights on her arms. A few red lines jagged across one. Swaying and slurring her words, the woman rambled on about the fight she got in with Grassel and walked back inside her house.
“Basically he just got jealous at this bar we were at and we got home and he started patting me on the head like a dog or something,” Baines said, waving her hand to demonstrate. “I said, `Don’t touch me, get off of me,’ and he pushed me out the front door and then he left. My kid wouldn’t let me back in.”
Patrolman Craig Midel calmed her long enough to get a description of Grassel, 32.
“He’s got a glass eye,” she said. “You guys arrested him last week for this, you know. You guys put him in jail for hitting me then.”
“Then why are we here again?” Pavlischak asked, his hands on his hips.
“I don’t know.” After a pause, she blurted, “Because he pays the bills and I don’t work and I don’t have money and he takes care of everything.”
“Oh, well, that explains it, then,” Pavlischak muttered. He handed her a white card listing services available for victims of domestic violence.
“As long as he knows he can do this to you, he’s going to keep doing it, Dorothy,” he said. “You have to take some action and take care of yourself and your son.”
“I know, I know,” she sighed.
Just before the three patrolmen were about to leave, the phone rang. Baines froze.
“I bet it’s him,” she said.
“Find out where he is,” Pavlischak said.
She picked up the receiver.
“Hello?” she said. “Hey dumb yourself. Don’t call me dumb … Where are you? … The cops ain’t here … No they aren’t … Go to hell.”
She hung up.
Pavlischak and the others returned to their cars and started searching for Grassel. They went to a nearby bar where Baines said he is a regular. He wasn’t there. They circled around nearby shopping centers and drove down alleys.
Finally, they gave up.
“We’re not going to find him tonight,” Officer Larry House said. “He knows if we do, he’s going to jail. He won’t show his face anytime soon.”
Grassel returned to the couple’s house on North Dakota later that day, and the two reconciled. Grassel has been arrested at least twice for beating Baines and once for violating a no-contact order she filed against him. In each case, charges were dropped because Baines said she wouldn’t testify against him. “I can’t leave,” she said after the latest assault. “I don’t have any place to go. Besides, he never hurts me too bad.”
`I’m going to be my own person now’
The YWCA safe shelter quieted down for the night. It was 10 p.m. Jan. 28 and the dozen children hiding out here with their mothers were curled under quilts upstairs.
In the crowded kitchen - a favorite gathering place in the big old house - women in pajamas and robes sat around a table, drinking juice and decaf, eating leftover pasta salad.
A tousle-haired woman who fled her Western Washington home with her baby girl and a U-Haul filled with furniture gathered requests for a hairstylist who’d visit the women in a day or two.
“Maybe I’ll just get it cut and frosted,” mused a woman from Idaho, who arrived at the center with four children after her wealthy boyfriend popped her in the jaw.
At the kitchen counter, a middle-aged farm woman looked at a batch of fresh eggs she grabbed when she left her husband of 19 years. The brown and white eggs reminded her of the animals and the rural lifestyle she left behind on their farm west of Spokane.
She’d endured beatings and black eyes before, stayed even after her husband banged her head against the kitchen stove again and again. This time, when he thrashed their daughter with an electrical cord for not cleaning her room, the woman emptied her closets into suitcases.
“When he hit her with the extension cord, that was my ticket out of there,” she said, her sad eyes showing a hint of triumph. “I’m going to be my own person now.”
Tacked on the dark woodwork are scattered messages meant to encourage her and the others: “You can’t beat a woman.” “Stop the cycle.” “There is a safe place to be.” “Welcome home.”
Girls living here with their mothers are inundated with heartfelt advice on men and relationships. A 19-year-old woman studying theology in college got an impromptu lecture from Carolyn Morrison, who runs the center.
“Shopping for a man is like shopping for produce. Why would you pick an apple with a worm hanging out of it? Run like the wind the opposite way!”
Here, the women hide from their abusers while they search for new homes, new jobs, new lives. They share bedrooms and meals and dress for job interviews in a chilly basement room piled with second-hand clothes and shoes.
They took their snacks into the living room and settled into easy chairs and sofas. A quiet woman trying to escape both alcoholism and a violent relationship sipped a pop and read the center’s copy of “True Grit.”
Others popped a movie cassette into a VCR. On the television screen, a smiling woman and her polite, attentive escort rode down a country road in a horse-drawn carriage.
The woman from Western Washington mother beamed, then sighed. “Why can’t men talk to us like that?”
The woman sitting next to her munched pretzels and patted her knee. “They will.”
MEMO: Editor’s note: The victims photographed for this story agreed to have their pictures published.
The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Reporting: Bonnie Harris, Jeanette White, Winda Benedetti, William Miller and Gita Sitaramiah
The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Reporting: Bonnie Harris, Jeanette White, Winda Benedetti, William Miller and Gita Sitaramiah