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Years Of Beatings Preceded Murder ‘He Never Had To Have A Reason To Hit Her’

Denise Chapman gave up trying to leave her abusive boyfriend years ago. It was too hard, she told friends. She was tired.

Then the 30-year-old Spokane woman got pregnant with Dan Foote’s baby. He hit her harder, more. A black eye, a broken rib. The beatings didn’t stop after the baby was born.

On Thursday, he shot her in the back of the head while she ran from him in terror. She was holding their daughter, now 2 years old, in her arms.

Then Foote, 33, put the barrel of his hunting rifle under his chin and fired.

Both died outside their home on West Dalton. The toddler, Samantha, was not injured.

“Everybody knew that this was coming,” said Mike Pond, who lived across the street from the couple in Hillyard for three years. “Dan’s thing was control.”

Chapman, unemployed and on welfare, never reported the abuse because she didn’t want to break up her family or lose custody of her two children from a previous marriage.

But she didn’t keep the abuse a secret, either, friends said Friday. She talked about the beatings openly, matter-of-factly. She gave in to him, they said.

The two started getting high on methamphetamine together and Foote continued drinking, friends said. Old English beer was his favorite. Neighbors saw him with one in his hands Thursday morning, just hours before the shootings.

“He never had to have a reason to hit her,” said one friend who didn’t want to be identified. “And she never had a healthy relationship before, so she probably didn’t know the difference.”

Chapman was married 10 years to Jonathan Chapman, a machinist who threatened repeatedly to kill her during the last years of their relationship, court records show.

In 1991, just before their divorce, Chapman filed a protection order against her husband because he stabbed himself in the stomach, turned to her and said, “You’re next,” according to records.

He also “tried to kill both of us” while they were in the car one day, swerving off the road and threatening to hit things, Chapman wrote in the court complaint. When she finally got out of the car he tried to run over her, according to the report.

The two had fought recently over custody of their children, ages 12 and 10. Neighbors at the shooting scene, along with Foote’s mother, at first thought Jonathan Chapman was the gunman in Thursday’s murder-suicide.

“We thought he did it because he’d been threatening her before,” said Shelly Ray, who lives across the street from the couple. “Everybody thought it was him.”

Chapman’s friends, however, said Jonathan Chapman used to be a heavy drinker but has been sober for four years. Knowing Foote was beating his ex-wife in front of his kids, Jonathan Chapman was trying to get full custody, they said.

“Their boy, he called police at least twice on Dan when he started knocking his mom around,” one friend said. “They told their dad about it. It was driving Jon crazy.”

Jonathan Chapman, who lives on East Liberty, did not return telephone calls for comment.

Shortly after her divorce, Denise Chapman started dating Foote. She moved into his house on North Magnolia, where they lived for three years before moving out in February.

Neighbors remember Foote dragging his girlfriend down the street by her hair one day, after she walked away from him in the middle of a fight.

They also recall the jealous fury he’d unleash if Chapman so much as looked outside the windows.

“He didn’t like her doing that for some sick reason,” one former neighbor said.

Foote was never arrested on a domestic violence charge.

Former neighbor Pond drove Chapman to her parents’ house on East Liberty after several nasty brawls. She made a few meager efforts to move out altogether but quickly changed her mind, he said.

“The last time I drove her to her parents after a fight was last year,” Pond said. “I told her, ‘Something bad’s going to happen, Denise.’ I told her it would.”

, DataTimes