That’s how much time passed between the reporting of the violent sexual assault and beating of Samantha Jo McNorton by David Malone and the issuance of a warrant for the crime.
Evidence of the assault was plain to see. It left McNorton bruised and battered. It was so violent it left her unconscious, and she required trips to hospitals in Azle and Fort Worth. The assault occurred Oct. 25 at Malone’s home in Springtown. It was reported the next day to the Parker County Sheriff’s Office. An exam found evidence of rape, and her body was covered in bruises.
But a warrant was not issued for Malone until Nov. 7, and by then it was too late.Malone murdered McNorton on Nov. 5, on a stretch of gravel road in rural southwest Wise County. He buried her body in a makeshift grave just south of Greenwood, and with it he buried three childrens’ chances of ever getting to spend one more moment with their mother.
Why did it take Parker County so long to issue a warrant? Could this tragedy have been prevented?
He’d already been convicted twice, once in Tarrant and once in Wise, for violent attacks against women. Court documents reveal he treated his ex-wife the same way he treated McNorton. He lost custody of his children due to patterns of violence. His ex-wife swore in an affidavit that she was convinced he would kill her someday if she didn’t get away from him.
As recently as May 4, Malone had allegedly assaulted a former girlfriend in Bowie. That was reported to the Montague County Sheriff’s Office, but again, little or nothing was done.
If he’d been locked up earlier or gone through some kind of counseling and treatment, the tragedy that took McNorton’s life might have been prevented. Unfortunately, when it comes to domestic violence, it’s all too common that violent offenders get away with it again and again. Punishment, if any, is minimal.
“You have to kill somebody or almost kill them before you get anything other than probation,” said Pat Slayton, the executive director of Wise Hope Shelter and Crisis Center. The organization provides refuge and help for victims of domestic violence. Unfortunately, she admits the legal system is often too lenient on abusers until it is too late.
“It’s something we talk about a lot,” Slayton said. “A lot of times people who get arrested for it face no serious consequences. They get the minimum sentence. And if there are no consequences, they are going to keep doing it.
“Part of the problem is that the prison system in Texas is taxed already. A judge might not think they are helping anyone by locking them up, even if he is a potential safety hazard.”
Malone was a ticking time bomb who apparently viewed women as property and justified his behavior by convincing himself that they cheated on him and deserved his violent anger.
Slayton said there are pushes to make the laws tougher, and in some areas they have succeeded. For example, in the past couple of years any domestic abuse where strangulation occurs is now considered a felony. Malone allegedly choked his ex-wife back in 2006. That’s also how he killed McNorton after stabbing her. For his second conviction he did get a prison sentence, but it was only three years and he was out earlier than that.
There is counseling for abusers, but more is needed. Slayton said studies show only about 15 percent of abusers who go through counseling actually change their behavior.
And often domestic violence occurs completely in the shadows. Wise Hope served 360 clients last year alone, but experts think only 20 percent of cases are ever reported. Because of this, Wise Hope spends a lot of its time trying to educate young people in schools so they don’t end up in dangerous relationships.
“We are trying to make the laws tougher, but for now it’s up to all of us to prevent it,” Slayton said. “If you know someone who is an abuser, you must make sure they know it’s not OK. Too often people will turn a blind eye or think it’s none of their business.”
Last year, 102 women were killed in Texas from domestic violence. Another 26 bystanders (children, family members or co-workers) were also killed during acts of domestic violence.
Because too little was done too late, Samantha McNorton is another statistic in that system.
Wise Hope has a 24-hour crisis hotline that can be reached at (940) 626-4855. To find out how to help call (940) 626-4855 or go to www.wisehope.org.