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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Advocates honored for helping victims

After falling from a horse and breaking her collarbone, Sandra Turtle was given a dose of her own medicine. Turtle, a longtime advocate for domestic violence victims, was taken to the emergency room, where nurses asked, ” ‘Are you safe at home?’

“I couldn’t figure out what it meant,” said Turtle, a Coeur d’Alene counselor.

Then it dawned on her – the nurses were doing exactly what they should, Turtle said. They were part of a growing community effort to identify and halt domestic violence, an issue that Turtle has spent more than a decade championing with police, prosecutors, medical professionals and counselors.

On Wednesday, she was one of a handful of North Idaho professionals honored for their work in fighting domestic violence. Turtle received a special community service award from the North Idaho Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

“I see a community effort finally happening,” Turtle said, accepting the award.

At least 600 cases of domestic violence – a record number – are expected to be prosecuted this year in Kootenai County, said Laura Bonneville, domestic violence victims advocate with the county prosecutor’s office. The number represents no shortage of tragedy, but Bonneville said it’s also a reflection of the county’s zero-tolerance emphasis.

One of the local leaders in fighting domestic violence has been Deputy Dale Moyer, who was honored at Wednesday’s ceremony. Moyer’s thoroughness and professionalism has made him an ideal court witness in domestic cases, Bonneville said. This is especially helpful when victims are afraid to testify.

Moyer also trains younger deputies on how to handle domestic cases. “It’s the most dangerous part of the job,” Moyer said.

Moyer said his job has become easier with more resources available to help victims and even the aggressors. After they have completed treatment, several of the aggressors in domestic violence cases have even called Moyer to thank him for being arrested, he said.

Officers from other regional departments were also honored, including:

“ Post Falls police Officer Tyler Smith, who was cited for his compassion and follow-through with victims, as well as the thoroughness of his arrest reports.

“ The entire Rathdrum Police Department was cited for its commitment to training officers on handling domestic violence situations. Officer Bill Ray was specifically mentioned for his patience and ability to work with young victims. “Getting them to talk is brutally difficult,” Ray said. “Once we get the whole story, we can get help for everybody involved, including the kids.”

“ Veteran Coeur d’Alene police Officer Pat Sullivan was honored for his work in training new officers and for his ability in gathering evidence and testimony at crime scenes. “He makes one of the best witnesses in court,” Bonneville said.

“Kellogg police Officer Jason Woody and Shoshone County deputies Steve Harris and Corey Thompson were also given domestic violence victim’s advocate awards for their work.

“ A special youth advocate award went to Coeur d’Alene police Officer Tom Sparks for the help he gave to an 11-year-old girl earlier this year. The girl had confided to a school counselor that she was being sexually and physically abused by her mother.

Sparks, a school resource officer, investigated the claims, arrested the mother and quickly found protective custody for the girl, Bonneville said.

Above and beyond his normal duties, however, Sparks went with the little girl to her apartment to make sure her cat had enough food while the custody details were being arranged.

“If it was important to her, it was important to me,” Sparks said.

Both the cat and the girl are now in safe homes.