Welcome

My sister was murdered on January 8, 2000 in her home, by her husband, who then killed himself.  Her name is Nancy Ann, but as kids and until she died, we referred to her as UGABOO.   Ugaboo was a great sister and friend.  She would have been 35; her birthday was July 25, and that was hard without her.

Ugaboo was a very kind, caring, and loving person, she had a great personality. She got along with everyone and would always go out of the way to help people. Ugaboo loved her husband and daughter with all her heart and soul, she will be loved and missed very deeply by all.

Nancy was a Nursing Assistant for many years and loved her job and all the people she got to know, she also loved to go camping on the Blue Ridge Mountains, and she loved her family truly.

From what Ugaboo told me the last week of her life, he has been abusing her for the past 8 years. She left him in Sept. of 1999, but decided she needed to try again.  I told her to pack her things and her daughter's and come to my house but she didn't.  She realized that she chose wrong on 1/3/00 when he hit her and she got a protective order against him.  They are worth nothing.  

In the articles you will read how everything came down.  It is too painful to type out for me.  

 


Nancy and her beautiful baby girl

All of her sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews, parents and grandparents: 

GRANDPARENTS (F) = THOMAS AND RUTH E DENNIS

GRANDPARENTS (M) = SAMUEL O WOLFE AND JO-HANNA WOLFE

FATHER = ROBERT FREIERMUTH

MOTHER = NANCY ANN FREIERMUTH (WOLFE)

SISTERS & BROTHERS = PEGGIE KELLER, ROBIN WILLIAMS, CINDY NEAL, GEORGETTE DURIE, ROBERT  FREIERMUTH (BOBBY), JAMES F FREIERMUTH, DENNIS FREIERMUTH and DONNA FREIERMUTH  

NEPHEWS = BRYAN KELLER, DONALD WALLACE (WALLY), ROBERT W FREIERMUTH JR, TRAVIS A WEST, DALLAS A WEST, JAMES F FREIERMUTH JR, ZACHARY FREIERMUTH, 

NIECES = STEPHANIA L KEY, CARRIE L WILLIAMS, MELISSA A WILLIAMS, COURTNEY FREIERMUTH

SINCE SHE HAS PASSED, SHE WAS MADE A GREAT-AUNT TO PATRICK PETER WALLACE, ON  7/22/00.

We grew up in Wilkes-Barre, PA and moved to VA in 1980 and this is where home is now.  She will never leave here and I won't leave her.  I love and miss her so very much, and I am in counseling to help me deal with this: The day of their deaths, my whole family was there at the scene (except for Peggie because she still lives in Pa.) and we all were there when it was over and we all were told that they were gone. 

My sister has a daughter and she was shot and wounded by her father that same day.  She is my Godchild and niece.  Please keep her in your thoughts as this is obviously very difficult for her.

Thank you for your time in reading this. 

I not only lost a sister, I lost my best friend in this world.

Cindy Neal

 


 

 

      CRITIC: PROTECTIVE ORDERS NOT ENFORCED
      DOMESTIC VIOLENCE EXPERT SAYS LOCALITIES LAX

      Saturday, January 15, 2000

      Enforcement of protective orders is inadequate across the state, said Ruth Micklem, co-director of Virginians Against Domestic Violence. State family-violence laws were strengthened in 1997, but "the piece that's lacking is the accountability at the local level," she said. She was responding to questions raised following the murder-suicide last week of Alan Craig Smith and Nancy Ann Smith, and Smith`s wounding of the couple's 15-year-old daughter.

      Smith was under a judge's order to have no contact of any kind with his wife or daughter. A box on the protective order was checked for "no exceptions." Nancy Smith complained to authorities the day before she was killed that her husband was telephoning her, but a Gloucester magistrate refused to issue a warrant charging Smith with violating the court order.

      "It seems very clear that law enforcement fell down, and that's not uncommon,'' Micklem said The magistrate, D.G. Wallace, did not respond to a request for an interview. His supervisor, William J. Poggione, chief magistrate of the Ninth Judicial District, said Wednesday that magistrates evaluate each situation to decide whether a violation appears to have occurred. In the Smith: case, Poggione said Wallace didn't know the terms of the protective order. Nonetheless, he decided not to issue a warrant for Smith's arrest, saying the calls were not dangerous. Wallace has about 20 years' experience as a magistrate, Poggione said. Magistrates are employees of the court system; they do not work for law-enforcement agencies. They have wide-ranging powers to bring criminal charges; issue arrest warrants, search warrants and emergency protective orders; and set bond and release suspects from jail. Poggione declined Friday to further discuss Wallace's handling of the Smith case, saying it was a personnel matter.

      Kathy L. Mays, media officer for the Virginia Supreme Court, which is the ultimate authority over magistrates, said, "We just cannot second-guess what is going on on the local scene." She called the Smith, deaths "absolutely a tragic situation." Mays referred questions to the chief judge of the Ninth Circuit, Prentis Smiley, who could not be reached Friday. 

      Rosemary Boume, assistant commonwealth's attorney in Gloucester, said magistrates are in a quasi-judicial position and "have to make those calls a lot," just as judges have to interpret the law. Regarding Nancy Smith's complaint, Boume said, "I can only say what I would have done if the case had come before me. I would have prosecuted it. I've prosecuted cases where the violation is a phone call."

      In Newport News, Chief Magistrate Allen Pack said, "No contact means no contact. No phone calls. No pages. No e-mail. Nothing." But Pack, Poggione and others said a victim of domestic abuse who is in a dangerous situation needs more than a piece of paper from a court. "What is important for folks to know is to get in a safe place, and not count on law enforcement working," Micklem said. "The law is only going to work as well as the victim, law enforcement and the magistrate all work together," said Karen DiPentima, director of the Victim Assistance Program in Gloucester. Sometimes, she said, she advises victims not to get a protective order because it might enrage the abuser. In those cases, she tells them to find safe shelter and work on establishing a life away from the abuser.

      A relatively recent law allows victims in certain circumstances to get new Social Security numbers for themselves and their children, so the abuser can't track them, DiPentima said. On the opposite end of the scale, there are women who falsely claim to have been abused in an effort to punish their partners, she and others said. `When a woman comes in, you don't know the whole situation. The accused must have an opportunity to respond," DiPentirna said. When Poggione was asked if the "better safe than sorry" adage might have applied when Wallace made his decision, he responded, "You don't cause people to be arrested for something they haven't done."

      Georgette Durie, who went to her sister Nancy's funeral Friday, said she was at Nancy's home the night before Nancy was killed. The phone rang about 10 p.m. and Georgette answered it, because she knew Nancy wouldn't. It was Alan, calling again. Georgette already had told him that Nancy didn't want to have anything more to do with him. No more broken promises, no more marriage. And Nancy had already told Georgette that she had spoken to a Gloucester deputy that morning about Alan's phone calls. "She said the deputy said there wasn't anything they could do," Georgette said. "I just don't understand all this." 

      Domestic Violence, 1999
      Deaths statewide: 125 (59 men, 50 women, 16 children)
      Deaths in the Tidewater Region: 25 (Portsmouth, Isle of Wight, Hampton, Newport News, Chesapeake, Norfolk, York, Sussex, Southampton, Gloucester)

      * The figures include suicides of people who killed themselves after killing a partner or someone else.

      Source: Virginians Against Domestic Violence, which compiles the figures from newspaper reports. The organization acknowledges that the figures might be incomplete.

      To get help:

      • Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-838-8238, available 24 hours a day. 
      • Transitions Family Violence Services, 24-hour hotline, 723-7774
      • On the Middle Peninsula, the Laurel Shelter at 694-5552. A support group for people affected by domestic violence meets every other Monday at 5:30 p.m. in the Riverside Wellness & Fitness Center, Gloucester. Child care is available during the meeting if reservations are made by 3 p.m.; call the shelter, 694-5552.

      OFFICIAL'S INACTION PLAYED TRAGIC ROLE IN WOMAN'S SLAYING

      Sunday, January 16, 2000

      Gloucester County magistrate D.G. Wallace didn't kill Nancy Ann Smith. Her husband, Alan Craig Smith, did. At the same time, there's no question that Wallace played a role in the Jan. 8 murder of Nancy Smith, the wounding of her daughter and Alan Smith's subsequent suicide.

      Today, Wallace finds himself embroiled in tragedy in the most ironic way and a way that hopefully will inspire changes in how public officials and everyone else confront domestic abuse. Wallace, who works for the legal system, involved himself by choosing not to enforce the law.

      The magistrate refused to issue an arrest warrant for Alan Smith the day before Smith went on his deadly shooting spree. Although Nancy Smith was scared enough to try to have her husband arrested for violating a no-contact order issued by a judge, Wallace presumed to overrule the judge by doing nothing.

      Wallace hasn't talked about his decision. His boss says Wallace didn't think that telephone calls Alan Smith made to Nancy Smith represented a threat. Thing is, Wallace didn't take the time to find out. The same day that Wallace passed off Alan Smith's phone calls to his wife as harmless, Nancy Smith told her boss, "He says soon we'll both be dead." She was talking about herself and her daughter, and she was half-right. Legal experts say Wallace can't be sued fur his lack of action. Proving negligence in cases like these is all but impossible. But the right to sue is not as important as the right of abused women to protection. Juvenile and Domestic Relations Judge Isabelle AtLee ruled from the bench that Alan Smith should have no contact with his wife. The judge didn't say no threats or no physical confrontations. She said no contact. 

      The judge obviously thought that the couple needed some time apart, whether or not Alan Smith agreed. She tried to put the force of the justice system behind that desire. Relatives and friends agree the Smiths needed to cool off Alan drank, they say. His abuse of alcohol was bad enough that he himself realized he should enter a recovery program. On Jan. 3, Nancy Smith called the Gloucester Sheriffs Department to say her husband had assaulted her during an argument. The record shows no other history of violence by Alan Smith toward his wife or daughter. On the other hand, the judge heard enough to persuade her to separate the couple. Indeed, the petition that AtLee acted on in issuing the no-contact order said Alan Smith had threatened to kill his wife.

      The question for Wallace - and others caught in the tangled web of domestic troubles - is this: Why second-guess the judge? In cases of spousal abuse, the system works poorly enough. Battered spouses often fear their abusers so much, they won't file charges against them. As a result, some communities, including Gloucester, operate domestic-abuse-prevention programs that force police to charge and arrest suspected wife-beaters if there's clear evidence of abuse. This, in turn, forces magistrates to issue 72-hour emergency protection orders. A court hearing follows. 

      All this happened in the Nancy Smith case. The system broke down at the point where Wallace broke ranks. He didn't see AtLee's no-contact order before refusing to issue a warrant for Alan Smith's arrest. The order was on file in the Sheriffs Department about 30 feet from his office. Perhaps Wallace didn't bother to walk those 30 feet or ask a deputy to do it for him because he knew all he'd find was a standard form containing few, if any, particulars.

      Sure enough, Nancy Smith's form mentions nothing about a death threat. What the no-contact order does include is a box that reads, "No exceptions.' Judge AtLee checked that box. Magistrate Wallace did something worse than ignore her mark. Lie didn't bother to look for it. Instead, he substituted his judgment for the judge's.

      No one can say that Nancy Smith would be alive today if Wallace had not done that. But they would be able to give the next best answer: The system did all it could to protect her. 


      PROTECTIVE ORDERS AREN'T ENFORCED, ADVOCATE SAYS

      Sunday, January 16, 2000

      A woman's murder a day after she unsuccessfully sought help from a court is further evidence that enforcement of protective orders is inadequate across the state, a domestic violence expert said.  State family-violence laws were strengthened in 1997, but "the piece that's lacking is the accountability at the local level," said Ruth Micklem, co-director of Virginians Against Domestic Violence.

      She was responding to questions raised following the murder-suicide earlier this month of Alan Craig Smith and Nancy Ann Smith, and the wounding of the couple's 15-year-old daughter.  Alan Smith was under a judge's order to have no contact of any kind with his wife or daughter. A box on the protective order was checked for ``no exceptions.''

      Nancy Smith complained to authorities the day before she was killed that her husband was telephoning her, but a Gloucester magistrate refused to charge Alan Smith with violating the court order.  "It seems very clear that law enforcement fell down, and that's not uncommon," Micklem said.

      The magistrate, D.G. Wallace, did not respond to a request for an interview. His supervisor, Chief Magistrate William J. Poggione, said Wednesday that the telephone calls were not dangerous.  Rosemary Bourne, an assistant prosecutor in Gloucester, said magistrates "have to make these calls a lot," just as judges have to interpret the law.

      Regarding Nancy Smith's complaint, Bourne said, "I can only say what I would have done if the case had come before me. I would have prosecuted it. . . . I've prosecuted cases where the violation is a phone call." In Newport News, Chief Magistrate Allen Pack said: "No contact means no contact. No phone calls. No pages. No e-mail. Nothing."


      INVESTIGATION LOOKING INTO CASE HANDLING
      WOMAN COMPLAINED ABOUT HUSBAND TWICE ON DAY BEFORE SHOOTING

      Saturday, January 22, 2000

      A magistrate's handling of a domestic violence case that ended in murder and suicide is under investigation, but the magistrate can't be questioned because he is ill, said the chief judge of the 9th District. General District Judge Merlin Renne, who is in charge of 9th District magistrates, said D. Gordon Wallace is suffering from high blood pressure and work-related stress, and is on medical leave.

      On Jan. 7, Wallace declined to charge Alan Craig Smith with violating a protective order that said he was to have no contact with his wife, according to a police report. Early the next morning, Smith shot and killed his wife, Nancy Ann Smith, and himself, and wounded their 15-year-old daughter. The sheriffs office confirmed Friday that Smith had spoken twice with deputies on the day before she died about her concerns about her husband - once in the morning and then again six hours before she was killed.

      Regarding the investigation into Wallace's decision, Renne said, "The question that we don't have the answer to is `Exactly what information did the magistrate have?' ... This is a tragic situation, and it needs to be reviewed."

      A preliminary investigation indicates a Gloucester deputy might not have given Wallace enough information to support a criminal charge, possibly because the deputy was inexperienced or not sufficiently assertive, Renne said Thursday.

      But the deputy, Robert L. Taylor, was far from "green," Maj. Michael L. Nicely, spokesman for the Gloucester Sheriffs Office, said Friday. Taylor graduated in November 1998 from the sheriffs office auxiliary police academy, and worked as an auxiliary officer until he became a full-time deputy in October 1999, Nicely said. Taylor has had training and on-the-job experience handling domestic violence cases, Nicely said. In December, Taylor responded to two complaints of domestic violence and in both cases, arrests were made and protective orders obtained, Nicely said. 

      William J. Poggione, chief magistrate of the 9th District, said last week that Taylor didn't take a copy of the no-contact protective order to Wallace when Taylor requested a warrant. Smith had been telephoning his estranged wife at a friend's home and at her job. So, Poggione said, Wallace didn't know the details of the court order.

      Nonetheless, Wallace decided the order hadn't been violated. According to Taylor's report and Poggione's account, Wallace thought the calls were not threatening or dangerous. Renne conceded Wallace could have walked 30 feet down a hallway to look at the order, filed in the Sheriffs Office, or asked Taylor to get it. "Why he wasn't led to ask, I don't know," Renne said. Renne explained, however, that a magistrate's responsibility is to be impartial, listen to evidence, and decide if there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed - much as a judge or grand jury would listen to evidence from a prosecutor. Magistrates do not have an investigatory role, Renne said.

      A woman who answered the phone Friday at Wallace's Gloucester Point home said he was "not available for comment." Nicely has refused to discuss the details of the conversation between Wallace and Taylor, or Wallace's decision. In response to a reporter's question Friday, Nicely checked the log of calls to the Sheriffs Office on the night before the Smiths died. He confirmed that Nancy Ann Smith talked with deputies twice on Jan. 7. The first time was when she told Taylor about the phone calls. Then, at 10:33 p.m., she called a dispatcher who put her call through to Deputy Steven Enoch.

      Nicely said she told Enoch she'd heard Alan Smith might be driving around her neighborhood. Enoch checked the neighborhood around midnight, looking for Alan Smith, Nicely said. If Enoch had seen Alan Smith, he would have arrested him, Nicely said.

      About 41/2 hours after Enoch's cheek, Alan Smith broke into the couple's house, shot their daughter as she ran away, then killed his wife and himself  Renne, experts in domestic violence and friends of Nancy Smith have noted that she chose to go back to the home, instead of a shelter, after her husband was charged Jan. 3 with assaulting her and threatened to kill her.

      "If she assessed it, that she could safely stay at home, she must not have taken the threat that seriously herself" Renne said. "The moral of the story is, don't rely on protective orders to protect you," Gloucester Commonwealth's Attorney Robert D. Hicks said Friday. "They give a false sense of security. ... That's the moral of the story, get to a shelter, get out." Hicks said even if Wallace had charged Alan Smith with violating the order, Alan Smith probably would have been released - again - on bond. "The only thing that's going to protect you is for the guy to be locked up," and that's unlikely in the American judicial system, Hicks said. He cited Gloucester County's 223 domestic violence calls to the Sheriffs Office in 1999. "Out of 223 calls, how can you tell that that one is going to be lethal?"

      The alternative is to lock up all 223 people, and Americans philosophically have been against keeping people jailed on misdemeanor charges before conviction, Hicks said. 

      WHAT TO DO

      If you think a protective order has been violated or isn't being enforced, you should:

      • Call the police and report a violation, contact your lawyer, call a victims' advocate or shelter, and/or advise the court. 
      • If the police do not help, contact a victims' advocate or your lawyer, and file a complaint with the police chief or sheriff.
      • File a private criminal complaint with a magistrate or commonwealth's attorney.

      Source: Family Violence Reference Manual, 1996, a publication of the Virginia Commission on Family Violence Prevention

      WHAT IS A MAGISTRATE?

      In many instances, a citizen's first contact with the judicial system of the commonwealth comes through the office of the magistrate. A principal function of the magistrate is to provide an independent, unbiased review of complaints brought to the office by police officers, sheriffs, deputies and citizens. Magistrate duties include: 

      * Issuing various types of processes such as arrest warrants, summonses, bonds, search warrants, subpoenas and civil warrants 

      * Conducting bond hearings to set bail in instances in which an individual is charged with a criminal offense. 

      * Issuing emergency custody orders, protective orders and involuntary commitments of mentally ill people 

      * Accepting prepayments for traffic infractions and minor misdemeanors. 

      Each judicial district is served by a chief magistrate and a number of magistrates. The large urban areas generally utilize hill-time magistrates who work on a shift basis to maintain an office 24 hours a day. In contrast, the majority of rural magistrates work on an availability basis and are contacted as needed. Some magistrates work on a fixed schedule during the day and are "on call" during the night. 

      (According to General District Judge Merlin Renne, chief judge of the 9th Judicial District, full-time magistrates are paid $30,000 to $40,000 a year, and part timers make $10,000 to $14,000, possibly less. Magistrates are not required to have a law degree; most of them are not lawyers.)

      Magistrate offices provide information to the public pertinent to judicial system processes and procedures, and extend assistance whenever possible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

      Source: State Code of Virginia and "Virginia Courts in Brief," published by the Supreme Court of Virginia 


      Daily Press

      MAGISTRATE CLEARED IN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CASE INQUIRY

      Wednesday, February 2, 2000

      Magistrate D. Gordon Wallace did nothing wrong in his handling of a domestic violence case that ended in murder and suicide, the chief judge of the 9th District said Tuesday. On Jan. 7, Wallace declined to charge Alan Craig Smith with violating a protective order by telephoning his estranged wife, Nancy Ann Smith.  Early the next morning, Smith shot and killed his wife and wounded their 15-year-  old daughter.

      General District Judge Merlin Renne, who as chief of the 9th District is in charge of its magistrates, said he and Chief Magistrate William J. Poggione have completed an investigation and not changed their previous opinion that a deputy did not give Wallace sufficient information to support a charge that would have led to Alan Smith`s arrest. Wallace, who had been on sick leave because of high blood pressure and work-related stress, returned to his job this week, Renne said.

      According to a police report in an unrelated case, Wallace on Monday issued a warrant charging a 30-year-old Hayes man with violating a protective order for telephoning his ex-girlfriend and threatening that things might get ugly. Renne said that in the Smith case, Alan Smith called Wallace on Jan. 7 asking for permission to go to the couple's Kings Creek Road home to get his cat, which he said hadn't been fed or given water. Wallace told him he couldn't go to the house unless he arranged with the Sheriffs Office for a deputy to escort him. 

      Later the same day, Renne said, Deputy Robert E. Taylor came to see Wallace with "a scrap of paper with something scribbled on it" by Nancy Smith, and told Wallace that Alan Smith had telephoned a friend of his wife's, maybe his wife's boss, and perhaps tried to call his wife directly to discuss `the situation."

      Wallace assumed Smith was calling about the cat, Renne said. On the scrap of paper, attached to Faylor's police report, is a written statement apparently by Nancy Smith. It is difficult to understand and says only that Alan Smith "called and said, `Nancy please don't hang up on me.' I told him I was" and "called my friend house and was working for me." According to Taylor's report, Smith spoke with his wife twice between 6 and 8 am. Jan. 7. Nancy Smith's boss called the Sheriffs Office and told Taylor at 9am. that Smith was calling his wife at work. "A warrant was declined by Magistrate Wallace, who advised that phone calls were not a danger to Mrs. Smith," Taylor's report says. 

      Smith was under a court order to have no contact of any kind with his wife, after being arrested Jan 3 for assaulting her. Renne said Smith`s blood alcohol level that day was .20. Renne agreed Tuesday with what Chief Magistrate Poggione said Jan. 12 about Wallace's decision not to charge Smith: It is a deputy's responsibility to make a full presentation to a magistrate and to advocate for a charge if the deputy believes a crime might have been committed. "In this case, that apparently was not done," Renne said. He added that Smith had no criminal record, there were no complaints of domestic violence before Jan. 3, and the assault that day resulted in a small bruise on Nancy Smith's arm. 

      Maj. Michael L. Nicely, spokesman for the Gloucester Sheriffs Office, said last month that he would not get into a public debate with the magistrate's office. Tuesday night, he said his only statement on the matter has not changed: "We gave the magistrate the facts, and he chose to do what he did.'' 

      LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

      Wednesday, February 2, 2000

      A Case of Deadly Indifference? Easy for him to say

      Reference the death of Nancy Ann Smith: I find it appalling that Gloucester Commonwealth's Attorney Robert Hicks' solution to the domestic violence issue is to have women and their children leave their homes and go to shelters because "the alternative is to lock up all 223 people" who where charged with domestic violence in 1999. 

      How long are the families of violent men supposed to stay in shelters? Who is going to pay for these shelters? Isn't this the equivalent of putting the victim in prison and letting the offender free?

      Everyone in this sordid tale is making excuses for the men of the Gloucester County sheriffs office and court system. A woman is dead and the only advice to other women in her situation is to leave home. Hide in a shelter. Don't go to work. He could find you. Keep your children out of school. He knows where they go. Plan on living your life in fear because the system will only give you a false sense of security. You're on your own. God help us all.

      A.M. Thomas
      Hampton


      Sounds like a coverup

      Judge Merlin Renne's report (Jan. 22) that Gloucester Magistrate D. Gordon Wallace is on sick leave sounds rather like a coverup in the Nancy Ann Smith case. There had to be a copy of the restraining order in his files. After Smith spoke to deputies twice in one day, alarm bells should have rung. The statement that phone calls are harmless borders on depraved indifference. With the judge's attitude, the whole general district court system should be investigated.


       

      GLOUCESTER NEEDS TO PUT A SPOTLIGHT ON FAMILY VIOLENCE

      Friday, February 4, 2000

      This just in from the Department of No Surprises: The powers-that-be in Gloucester County have pronounced themselves blameless in the death of Nancy Ann Smith. General District Judge Merle Renne said Tuesday that magistrate D. Gordon Wallace didn't have enough evidence to issue an arrest warrant for Alan Craig Smith the day before he murdered his wife, wounded his daughter and committed suicide.

      Nancy Aim Smith tried to have her husband arrested for calling her several times after a judge told him to have no contact with her. Renne said a Gloucester deputy sheriff didn't give Wallace the information he needed to have Alan Smith taken in for violating that court order. `The deputy,' said Renne, 'should have made a more complete presentation of the facts to Wallace when asking for the warrant. The deputy should have recommended that Wallace issue the warrant if he really thought Alan Smith needed to be detained, Renne continued.

      The Gloucester Sheriffs Department spokesman, Maj. Mike Nicely, responded to Renne's contention by saying he wasn't going to respond. 

      End of discussion?

      Seems like the powers-that-be would like it that way. They do a little bureaucratic sleight of hand, passing the buck back and forth, and presto, accountability disappears. Self-policing clears all the suspects. Everybody in authority dodges responsibility. Nobody admits they did anything wrong.

      Nothing changes.

      For the citizens who rely on people like Renne, Wallace and Nicely, the unspoken message is clear: Just get over it, the way the justice system has. The problem is that closing this discussion opens the season on abused women. Getting over the events leading up to Nancy Ann Smith`s murder means accepting her death as inevitable. Smith trusted the law to protect her. It didn't. And it won't protect the next victim of domestic abuse as long as the institutions involved look for excuses instead of solutions.

      The proper response to Smith`s death and her daughter's wounding has less to do with laying blame than laying a procedural groundwork that re-establishes public confidence. That hasn't happened yet. It won't happen if the people in Gloucester County just get over this tragedy. Wallace doesn't have to lose his job for the debate to continue. Robed Taylor, the deputy who came to Wallace with a handwritten note from Nancy Ann Smith asking for a warrant, doesn't have to be disciplined. What both men, their bosses and everyone else fighting domestic violence must do is change. And they must make their changes publicly.

      Rather than scrambling to put this matter to rest, Renne and Gloucester Sheriff Robin Stanaway ought to be scrambling to put together a task force that includes magistrates, deputies, social workers, counselors and victims of domestic violence. These folks need to hash out in open meetings just what law enforcement, the courts, the treatment community and the victims should do in cases such as Smith`s. 

      For starters, magistrates, as a matter of stated policy, might be required to look at the no-contact orders - and the paperwork that prompted them - before deciding whether to issue warrants. Wallace didn't. Second, if no-contact orders say "no exceptions," magistrates, as a matter of stated policy, might be required to issue arrest warrants for contact of any kind. If the Smith case proves anything, it proves that it's better to fill up the holding cell than the morgue. Third, deputies, as a matter of stated policy, might be required to interview all domestic violence victims seeking warrants and be required to tell magistrates about the violence or threats of violence that led to the issue of no-contact orders. Taylor apparently volunteered too little elaboration to Wallace. Fourth, victims of domestic violence, as a matter of stated policy, might be encouraged to articulate in any complaint to deputies or magistrates exactly why they feel threatened by what an alleged abuser has said or done. Smith didn't explain her fears very well.

      This is not a comprehensive list. A whole bunch of better ideas might exist to complement or even take the place of these four. The point is, it's time to talk candidly and make changes. There are any number of things the people of Gloucester County can do.

      The only thing they cant do is usher this subject to an early grave like the one in which Nancy Ann Smith now rests. 

      email
      Symphony Graphics Design

      Page visited   Hit Counter   times since 9/3/00