Andria believes she might be murdered some day.
Carlotta A. Shields and Anthony Tyrone Appling were married in 2008. He killed her and then himself June 6.
Her fear was re-enforced when she heard about a man who shot and killed his wife last Sunday as they met to exchange custody of their children at a Fulton County shopping center.
The very next day, Andria learned that a man shot and killed his wife who was divorcing him in Jackson County, then committed suicide near downtown Athens.
“I hate that these women keep dying, and the only thing I can say that’s keeping me from being killed depends on how much (my husband) doesn’t want to go to jail,” said Andria, a 33-year-old Athens woman who asked to be identified by first name only.
Andria is in the process of divorcing her abusive husband, which puts her in even more danger right now, domestic violence experts say.
Three-fourths of people killed by domestic violence either were leaving or had just left an abusive relationship, said Maggie Reeves, research coordinator for the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, which documents domestic-related killings in an annual Domestic Violence Fatality Review.
“Georgia’s Fatality Review consistently finds that domestic violence homicide victims had taken steps toward independence just prior to the homicide,” Reeves said.
That’s what happened last week to Carlotta Shields Appling, a 39-year-old Jefferson woman whose divorce soon would be final. She moved out of the home she’d shared with her husband a month earlier, and had a court order that forbade him from having any contact with her.
But as Carlotta got ready for work Monday morning, 42-year-old Anthony Appling forced his way into her home and shot her to death in her bedroom, police said.
He drove Carlotta’s car to Athens – where he used to live and was twice convicted of stalking and assaulting a former girlfriend – and after police searched for him most of the day, Appling shot and killed himself on a street near Clarke Central High School.
The murder-suicide shows how pending divorce and protective orders aren’t enough to ensure an abused woman’s safety, Reeves said.
“Legal options can be a great tool, but for the abusers, they can be seen just as a piece of paper,” she said.
Women should consider developing “safety plans,” according to Reeves.
Andria – who left her husband and filed for divorce three months ago – meticulously follows a plan she formed with the help of an advocate from Athens-based Project Safe, a nonprofit that provides counseling, shelter and other services to victims of domestic violence.
She knows the violence her husband is capable of.
He assaulted her last summer – four months into their marriage – and she miscarried two days later, according to documents filed in Clarke County Superior Court.
Six months ago, while pregnant with another child, Andria’s husband pressed two knives to her stomach, but stopped when her 2-year-old daughter came into the room and begged, “Please don’t hurt my mommy,” according to the documents.
Andria knew by then it was only a matter of time that she would be seriously hurt or killed if she didn’t leave the relationship.
But before making a break she sought counseling from Project Safe advocates, who devised a plan for her to pack her stuff and move while her husband was at work, so there couldn’t be a violent confrontation.
“Safety plans are the bread and butter of our individual work with everyone,” said Joan Prittie, Project Safe’s executive director. “They try to anticipate the places and times when the victim might be most vulnerable and compromised.”
Under her plan, Andria bought a new car that her husband wouldn’t recognize, shops at different stores, and basically varies her routine each day to make it harder for him to stalk her.
“I drive to different places to buy gas, even if it costs me 10 or 20 cents more a gallon,” Andria said.
For good measure, Andria also convinced a judge to issue a temporary protective order, which states her husband can be arrested if he contacts or comes within 100 yards of her.
“They might just be pieces of paper, but a recent study actually showed that TPOs are, for the most part, effective,” Prittie said. “They are not a magic bullet, but for some people they are going to help if their abusers don’t want to go to jail.”
Andria’s husband knows where she works, so her employers have a copy of the protective order and know to call the police if they see him, she said. Even employees at her daughter’s daycare center and Andria’s obstetrician’s office have copies.
Still, she won’t hold eye contact for long if someone strikes up a conversation outdoors. Andria constantly looks around to make sure she sees any danger coming her way.
“People have told me that he’s starting to crack, that he doesn’t look too good and has been kind of violent, which means I have to be more careful,” she said. “I hate to say it, but you get used to living this way.”
Anyone who is in an abusive relationship may want to consider calling Project Safe’s 24-hour hotline, at (706) 543-3331.
Originally published in the Athens Banner-Herald on Sunday, June 12, 2011 report an error