As 5-year-old Lilly Schmidt remained sedated in the intensive care unit of a local hospital for her stab wounds, hundreds gathered at Spokane’s Franklin Park on Wednesday to honor the life of her mother, Kassie Dewey, three days after she was killed.
Just before 8 p.m., Heidi and Bill Dewey, Kassie’s parents, huddled together in the center of the crowd, shielding their candles from the evening’s breeze.
Friends described Kassie Dewey, employed by Eastern State Hospital, as a strong, fun and unforgettable woman who stood up for herself.
Ruby O’Neill, Kassie’s cousin, read a statement on behalf of the family, thanking hospital staff and organizers of the candlelight vigil.
“She really wants you all to know that nothing hurts anymore and she feels free,” O’Neill said to the crowd.
Speakers at the vigil said Kassie Dewey’s death was the result of domestic violence, though police have not identified the suspect. Police have said the man was found semi-conscious in her garage near a running vehicle.
A GoFundMe set up for the family, which includes two of Kassie Dewey’s children who were not home during the attack, had raised $86,000 of its $100,000 goal by Wednesday evening, an hour before the vigil.
Lilly Schmidt underwent surgery after the attack and has been sedated to prevent movement around her delicate injuries, according to an update on the GoFundMe site.
As of Wednesday, the suspected attacker was still in custody at a local hospital for his own injuries, said Spokane police spokesperson Julie Humphreys.
Court documents show Dewey had reported domestic violence in a different relationship but was denied a protection order.
Denials of protection orders are not uncommon and they can be discouraging to victims, said Morgan Colburn, director of counseling, advocacy and outreach at Spokane’s YWCA, which supports victims of intimate partner domestic violence.
“Our brains are built to question the victim first, you know, what didn’t she do to prevent this? Generally our first question isn’t ‘Why did somebody do this to somebody?’ We need to switch that narrative,” Colburn said. “We need to hold accused people accountable.”
Speakers at the vigil echoed Colburn’s sentiment, encouraging anyone who suspects domestic violence not to judge their loved ones, but to help in whatever way they can.
Colburn said the lethality of domestic violence increases by many times in the days following a breakup with a violent partner. The YWCA, reachable via their hotline, provides services and guidance to people trying to survive violent relationships, including counseling, temporary housing and creating safety plans for what-if scenarios, Colburn said.
“Too many humans experience this, and on both ends. A lot of people are victims and we have a lot of humans who seek power and control over other people,” Colburn said. “That being said, not all of them end in lethality and there are ways to intervene and hope to prevent this.”
A death like Kassie Dewey’s can rock the whole community, Colburn said, and the YWCA traditionally sees an increase in services after domestic violence killings. People who relate to the story may fear their partner killing them, while those who have successfully left a violent partner may feel wounds reopened, Colburn said.
Editor’s note: This story was updated on April 23, 2021 to correct the last name of Kassie Dewey’s daughter, Lilly.