As I pulled up to drop off some donations at the Wise Hope Chest in Bridgeport Saturday, I couldn’t help but think back to a domestic violence murder case I covered, almost 10 years ago to the day, in the same town.
It was the first such case I had covered as a reporter. Unfortunately, it was far from the last.
The Wise Hope Chest is a resale shop that benefits the Wise County Domestic Violence Task Force and, specifically, the Wise Hope Shelter for victims of domestic abuse.
Hope – a word that means a feeling that what is wanted will happen. In some uses, it is a word that means “trust.”
It’s also the name of a woman who was shot and killed by her estranged husband in the parking lot of a nursing facility on Aug. 4, 2003.
Hope Moore had just arrived at work that morning with her oldest daughter. Her husband, Marty, was waiting for her. He ambushed her, shooting her multiple times. She died a couple hours later at a local hospital.
It was feared the couple’s 9-year-old daughter was with her father as he fled capture. It was later determined the child was safe with his relatives in Indiana. Early the next morning, Marty was located in Indiana. After running on foot, he eventually shot and killed himself.
The details that stuck with me the most were those I discovered from talking to some of Hope’s friends and co-workers. They had become aware, particularly in those last few months before the murder, of the fear Hope lived with every day. They talked about how Marty would leave notes at the nursing center, saying how much he loved her and wanted her back.
But later, his attitude would take a drastic turn. He would call her saying he “would destroy” her. And then he’d send her another love letter. At one point, Marty even told her “I’m going to kill you,” according to a friend.
The abuse was evident. It was hard to miss the choke marks around her neck.
After Hope’s death, her friends talked about hoping that good could come out of a tragic situation. “Her death has to account for something else,” one friend told me. “She didn’t die in vain.”
At the time of the murder, an existing building was still being renovated into Wise Hope Shelter. It would open the following year.
Three-and-a-half years later, I covered another murder with eerily similar circumstances. This time, the victim was a woman by the name of Maria Limon. It was not hard to notice the parallels in the two cases: both were 37 years old, shot as they arrived at their workplace in the morning and were victims of domestic abuse prior to their deaths. Both lived in fear that their estranged husbands would kill them.
Both had moved out of their homes to begin new lives, and neither had heard from their spouse for weeks leading up to their death.
And in both cases, the murderer ended up taking his own life as well.
Just last year, another similar case was seen when David Malone confessed to killing his girlfriend, Samantha Jo McNorton, and burying her in a shallow grave. He told investigators he did it because he thought she was cheating on him. Malone later hung himself in the Wise County Jail.
Women aren’t always the victims in domestic violence situations. Last year, Tammy Jo Chaffee of Bridgeport pleaded guilty to running over and killing her boyfriend, Jimmy Joe “J.J.” Robertson. According to police, both had made complaints to police about abuse. Chaffee is now serving a 25-year sentence for murder.
Perhaps as these stories are shared in the pages of the Messenger, more people will know about the great local resource Wise County has to tackle the problem of domestic violence. According to Ronnie McIlroy, program director for Wise Hope Shelter and Crisis Center, the local office has already helped 282 unique clients from Jan. 1 to June 30 of this year. For all of 2012, the program helped 340 people. Of that total, 60 were men.
Since the time of Hope’s murder, the resources to help victims of domestic violence in Wise County have continued to grow. The shelter now averages a little more than 100 clients a year. The program’s hotline receives between 3,000 and 4,000 calls per year.
The shelter has become more than just a safe-house. More and more programs are being offered to help victims improve their situations – whether it is a program on self-defense, nutrition or basic first aid. McIlroy said she would like to see someone offer to teach sessions on resum writing or basic accounting, such as how to balance a checkbook.
Classes are also being offered in some local schools. It’s a proactive way to educate young people about the serious nature of domestic violence before they find themselves in such a situation.
Although even a single domestic violence death is one too many, perhaps hearing about those deaths will prompt someone in an abusive relationship to make a call to a resource such as the Wise Hope Shelter and Crisis Center.
If that’s the case, then deaths like Hope’s will have certainly accounted for something.
Resources: If you are a victim of domestic abuse, call the 24-hour crisis hotline at 940- 626-4855. You can also visit www.wisehope.org.
Brian Knox is the Messenger’s special project manager.