Monday, June 27, 2005

Supreme Court Rules That Police Cannot Be Sued For How They Enforce Restraining Orders

The Supreme Court ruled on June 27 that police cannot be sued for how they enforce restraining orders, ending a lawsuit by a Colorado woman who claimed police did not do enough to prevent her estranged husband from killing her three young daughters. Jessica Gonzales did not have a constitutional right to police enforcement of the court order against her husband, the court said in a 7-2 opinion. Gonzales contended that police did not do enough to stop her estranged husband, who took the three daughters from the front yard of her home in June 1999 in violation of a restraining order. Hours later Simon Gonzales died in a gunfight with officers outside a police station. The bodies of the three girls, ages 10, 9 and 7, were in his truck. Gonzales argued that she was entitled to sue based on her rights under the 14th Amendment and under Colorado law that says officers shall use every reasonable means to enforce a restraining order. She contended that her restraining order should be considered property under the 14th Amendment and that it was taken from her without due process when police failed to enforce it.

''The restraining orders are not worth anything unless police officers are willing to enforce them. They are just paper,'' said Brian Reichel, the attorney for Gonzales. ''If nothing else this case has shined the spotlight on a very important issue.''

Castle Rock, Co., police contend they tried to help Gonzales. Police twice went to the estranged husband's apartment, kept an eye out for his truck and called his cellular phone and home phone.Gonzales reached him on his cell phone, and he told her that he had taken the girls to an amusement park in nearby Denver. Gonzales contends that police should have gone to the amusement park or contacted Denver police. The case is Castle Rock, Colo., v. Gonzales, 04-278. To read the full ruling, go to (Source: Associated Press)

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Employer hired security, but victim was killed at home

SYMMES TWP. - Trustees at the Clermont County Public Library were so fearful for Bonnie Speece's safety after her husband threatened her with a gun on June 5 that they hired an off-duty deputy to stand guard outside the Batavia building 12 hours a day, the director said.
Colleagues comforted one another Monday at work, a day after Speece, 54, the library's human resources coordinator for six years, was gunned down outside her Symmes Gate Lane condominium. Sheriff's officials said Benton French Speece, a 54-year-old self-employed home builder who was out of jail after posting a $20,000 cash bond in the earlier incident, fired the fatal shots about 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

Then he sped off to his apartment at nearby Harper's Point and shot himself. Benton Speece never appeared at the library earlier this month. But that was little comfort to director Leslie Massey, who worked closely with Bonnie Speece and considered her a friend. "I thought that he would follow through," Massey said. "He had some craziness going on. Obviously, the man was very unbalanced. Certainly all of us that cared about Bonnie were very concerned." On Monday, a bouquet of cut flowers lay as a memorial in the driveway where Bonnie Speece died. The couple's daughters, ages 23 and 11, were gone from the home. Sheriff's detectives continued to investigate the deaths.

Court records show that violence had escalated in the couple's 26-year marriage since January, when they separated, and that Bonnie Speece had done what she could to keep him away. He kept coming back. "This is a real sad one. Because it does appear to look like there were a lot of signs that this was a dangerous guy. And, he was doing the classic signs we see - escalating his behavior," said Ann MacDonald, executive director of the Rape Crisis & Abuse Center of Hamilton County. MacDonald said Bonnie Speece took all the right steps to get out of an abusive relationship, from filing for divorce, to seeking protective orders through the court, and calling police when things got out of hand.

In an application for a civil protective order that was granted through domestic relations court on May 4, Bonnie Speece listed several incidents since January, including threats of suicide and that he would "trash our condo, set fire to the funds in his 401K and bury me in debt." In a late January incident, Bonnie Speece said her husband dragged her out of the car, threw her in the snow and ripped off half of her clothes after a dinner together. He let her put her clothes back on after she quit fighting him. About a week after she filed for divorce in May, Bonnie Speece and her husband attended a marriage counseling session and had planned to depart separately. Benton Speece, however, hid in her car outside the medical office building, and surprised her when she got into her car. She ran to a security guard for help, her affidavit said.
On June 4, a day before Bonnie Speece accused her husband of pulling a gun on her, he ran after their 11-year-old daughter, threw her on the floor and kicked her in the back during an argument, the affidavit said. "He justified his actions and refused counseling," Bonnie Speece wrote.

She also had a protective order issued June 5 through Hamilton County Municipal Court, where Benton French Speece was being prosecuted on misdemeanor charges of domestic violence and aggravated menacing for taking a gun out of a shopping bag, pointing it at Bonnie Speece and threatening to kill her. "He told me that he was going to kill me, then kill himself," Bonnie Speece described the encounter in court documents. "I started talking to him about dropping the divorce action and telling him what he wanted to hear about the marriage. He placed the gun back in the bag and we talked for a while. When he left, I called police." Benton Speece spent the night at the Hamilton County Justice Center, but was released June 6 after he appeared in municipal court and posted the $20,000 cash bond that Judge Heather Russell set at an arraignment. The bond was far above the $1,500 bond that is called for in a guide that municipal judges use for misdemeanor cases. Russell was not available Monday, so it was unclear how much she knew about Benton Speece's past. Lawyers representing the Speeces in the divorce action and the criminal case either could not be reached or declined to comment.

A new law that goes into effect in August requires judges to consider several factors when setting bond in a domestic violence case, including whether the suspect has a history of domestic violence or other violent acts, the suspect's mental health and whether the suspect is a threat to any other person. Under current law, a judge is required to determine whether a suspect charged with domestic violence violated a protection order or has a prior conviction for domestic violence. Speece had none.

Amy Rezos, a West Chester mother after whom the law is named, wasn't sure Amy's law could have stopped what happened Sunday. "Amy's law is not something that's there to keep it from happening altogether. God, I wish it would. But I think they would have gotten more information on him before they did let him out," Rezos said. Meanwhile, the library administration is trying to put together a memorial service for Bonnie Speece, possibly on Wednesday, Massey said. It will provide an opportunity for her co-workers to share their grief and seek some closure, she said. "The reactions ranged from shock to anger to can't believe it happened to just being devastated," Massey said. "It's just a horrible situation."

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


The Webby Awards, the leading international honor for web sites, recognized CAEPV’s website as “Webby Worthy,” a distinction made for the first time this year to recognize sites exhibiting remarkable achievement.

Hailed as the “Online Oscars” by Time Magazine, The Webby Awards are determined by The International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences, a global organization with a membership that includes musician David Bowie, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, The Body Shop president Anita Roddick, “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening, Real Networks CEO Rob Glaser, and fashion designer Max Azria.

“The Webby Awards honors the outstanding web sites that are setting the standards for the Internet,” said Tiffany Shlain, creative director and founder of the Webby Awards. “GirlsAllowed’ Webby Worthy selection is a testament to the skill, ingenuity, and vision of its creators.”

Said Kim Wells, executive director of the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence (CAEPV), “We are honored to be recognized by such a distinguished judging panel against such outstanding competition. We are proud of the site because it helps young girls build a foundation for healthy relationships at such a critical time in their lives. When we add new ‘webisodes,’ we strive to bring relevance, greater understanding and confidence to our target audience of girls, ages 11-14.”

Added Wells, “Without the vision and creativity of the team at Media Options, and the leadership of our sponsors, young girls wouldn’t have tools like to help them through the difficult pre-adolescent and adolescent years.”

The 9th Annual Webby Awards received a record number of entries from more than 40 countries and all 50 states. Winners were announced on May 3, 2005 and honored at a gala event in New York’s landmark Gotham Hall on June 6, 2005.

Founded in 1996, the Webby Awards are known worldwide for their famous five-words-or-less acceptance speeches.

About is an animated web site for girls 11 to 14. It is designed to engage girls as “allowed” (welcome) and “aloud” (having a voice) with a focus on helping girls learn to identify healthy and unhealthy relationships before becoming involved in potentially abusive relationships. The program features an animated teen friend named “Anni” whose “space” is the center for information, activities, games and life lessons. Each weekday, a new animated "life lesson" (one of a series of 70) appears on the website, giving girls the opportunity to follow stories involving various people in Anni's life—stories about body image, dating pressures, being a good listener, handling conflict, and of course, identifying healthy and unhealthy relationships. To find out more, visit

About The Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence was created by the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence (CAEPV), a leading force in the fight against partner violence through education. CAEPV was the first national non-profit organization founded by and comprised of business leaders to address intimate partner violence by leveraging the strength and resources of the corporate community. CAEPV believes that business plays an essential role in raising awareness of the issue and that their sustained efforts will help reduce and ultimately eliminate partner violence. To find out more about CAEPV, go to

About Media Options, Inc.
Media Options, Inc. developed the website for CAEPV. Media Options, Inc. is a Chicago-based company with offices in Los Angeles. Founded in 1982, the company today is a leading developer of innovative education programs in interactive, web, DVD and print media for not-for-profits, professional organizations and corporations who want to reach their important internal and external audiences most effectively. For more information about Media Options, go to

About the Webby Awards
Called the “Oscars of the Internet” by the New York Times, the Webby is the leading international award honoring excellence in Web design, creativity, usability and functionality. Established in 1996, the 9th Annual Webby Awards received more than 4,000 entries from all 50 states and over 40 countries worldwide. The Webby Awards are presented by The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. Sponsors and Partners of the Webby Awards include: The Creative Group; Adweek, Brandweek and Mediaweek magazines; IDG; Fortune and FSB; 2advanced Studius; The Online Publishing Association; PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Rackspace Managed Hosting. For more information, visit

Friday, June 10, 2005

Liz Claiborne Study Finds Abuse Common Among Dating Teens

According to a study released Thursday, more than half of America’s teens know friends who have experienced physical, sexual or verbal abuse in their dating relationships. Among those surveyed, 13 percent of teenage girls, admit to being physically injured or hit and one in four report being pressured to perform oral sex or engage in intercourse, according to the survey by the private research group Teenage Research Unlimited.

“There is a lot to be said about the cycle of violence and there’s a lot of research that shows that violence is a learned behavior,” said Jane Randel a vice president at Liz Claiborne Inc., the company that underwrote the study. According to Randel, while research has shown that patterns of domestic violence among teens parallel those among adults, little is being done to educate America’s youth. “Parents are very willing to talk to their kids about drugs and sex and things, but this is an issue that kind of goes right over,” she said. According to the study, teenage dating abuse extends across the nations’s suburbs, cities, regions and ethnic groups.

The "Love Is Not Abuse" study, which used data collected from online surveys among 300,000 registered participants aged 13 to 18, showed only two-thirds of teens, boys and girls, say they would know what to do if a friend asked for help about an abusive relationship.

To help shed some light on the issue, Liz Claiborne, which has been involved in domestic abuse programs since 1991, is sponsoring a new curriculum in schools. The pilot program is a three day course developed by the non-profit Education Development Center (EDC). It will first be offered in nine schools representing a cross-section of the nation’s economy. “The goal of getting the research and the curriculum for us is to try and reach out to these kids when they are first forming their relationships, before they get to be adults so that they understand the issue,” said Randel. The “Love is Not Abuse Curriculum ” is aimed at 14-year-old 9th graders to help prevent growing incidence of physical and verbal abuse and sexual pressure within their age group. The program, to be offered in either health or English classes, is also designed to help establish a support system for those teens in abusive relationships. For more information, visit

Friday, June 03, 2005

Husband Kills Wife, Self In Front Of Her Workplace - Apparently Angry Over Pending Divorce

The Ashland, Kentucky community reacted with shock to the apparent murder-suicide of a married couple the morning of June 1st on a downtown street in Ashland. Donald Price, 49, and Kimberly Price, 40 died of apparent gunshot wounds in the 400-block of 21st Street near Winchester Avenue outside the Studio 21 Salon and Spa where police say Kimberly Price worked. Witnesses heard gunshots at about 8:15 a.m. at the corner of Winchester Avenue and 21st Streets, according to police. Police arrived soon thereafter and found two bodies with gunshot wounds lying on the sidewalk, the police reported. The shooting appears to be a murder-suicide resulting from a domestic dispute, said Capt. Todd Kelley, patrol division commander with the Ashland Police Department. Reports indicated Donald Price was angry about his pending divorce.

Police recovered a .45 caliber handgun from the scene. The woman was pronounced dead on the scene while the man was transferred to Kings Daughter’s Medical Center in Ashland where he later died, Kelley said.

No one at the hair salon where Kimberly Price worked as a receptionist would comment on the incident. Donald and Kimberly Price were seen fighting on the street corner just before the shooting, other witnesses said. Ashland resident Sandy Riley, a receptionist at a nearby doctor’s office, said she heard an altercation just outside her officer and saw the man and woman struggling with each other. She said she went back in her work and heard someone scream, "He has got a gun." "Within seconds, there were gunshots," Riley said.

Jo Ann Colvin saw the man who police now say was Donald Price sitting in a Chevrolet Impala parked next to Goodwill a little after 7:30 a.m. Colvin, a Catlettsburg resident, works at the Goodwill store across the street from Studio 21 at the corner of 21st Street and Winchester Avenue. She didn’t recognize the car or the man and found his being parked outside Goodwill so early suspicious. "I saw a car backed up and a guy inside reading a newspaper," Colvin said. "That was unusual. I know our regular customers." Donald Price rented the car and parked in Goodwill’s parking lot to wait for his estranged wife, Kelley said.

It is important to note that in cases of domestic violence, the most dangerous time for a victim is when they are in the process of leaving or have left the relationships. In cases of homicide connected with domestic violence, 75% of the time, the victim had left or was in the process of leaving the relationship. This situation is another indicator of just how dangerous and deadly that situation can be.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Murder-Suicide At Owensboro Kentucky Target Store

A Daviess County Kentucky man fatally shot a worker he saw with his ex-wife outside a Target department store on May 31 and then killed himself, police said. Doug Ritchie, 51, of Owensboro, an employee of the Target store, was shot once in the back of the head and once in the left side with a 12-gauge shotgun, said Owensboro Patrolman Doug Esther, a spokesman for the police department. Esther said Robin D. Blair, 41, shot Ritchie and then shot himself in the face outside the Target store. Blair believed that Ritchie and Blair's ex-wife were involved in a relationship, Esther said.

Police arrived to find the bodies of Blair and Ritchie, he said. Blair had seen Ritchie standing outside the store with Blair's ex-wife, Traci Blair, around 2:21 p.m. CDT, Esther said. The Blairs were divorced in November. Police said Blair had borrowed a neighbor's vehicle and had driven to the store before firing two shots at Ritchie. Traci Blair called 911, Esther said. "It's upsetting, and certainly not something you would expect to happen in Owensboro," Esther said. "However this type of incident can happen anywhere, if it can happen here."

South Carolina Domestic Violence Law Finally Goes To Governor

A criminal domestic violence bill that went largely unnoticed this legislative session until a lawmaker’s controversial remarks won easy approval Wednesday. The House, which first passed the bill last month, agreed in a voice vote to minor changes made by the Senate and sent it to Governor Mark Sanford for his signature. Sanford is “strongly inclined” to sign the bill, spokesman Will Folks said. If the bill becomes law, it will go into effect January 1, 2006.

Victim advocates were delighted by the passage of the bill, which calls for mandatory minimum sentences for more serious offenses and higher fines. South Carolina in recent years has ranked No. 1 in the rate of women killed by men. “I think we will move our state (below) the top 10 in the nation in domestic violence homicides,” said Vicki Bourus, director of the S.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. “I know it will save lives,” said Laura Hudson, spokeswoman for the S.C. Victim Assistance Network.

But Columbia lawyer Kathrine Hudgins, president of the S.C.Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, doesn’t believe the bill will deter domestic violence. “What we need to do to help people is to get them into treatment programs, not throw them into jail,” she said. “As a general principle, mandatory minimums don’t solve the problem.” The bill calls for mandatory minimum sentences of 30 days for second offenses, and one year for third and subsequent offenses and criminal domestic violence of a high and an aggravated nature. It also sets minimum fines for first and second offenses at $1,000 and $2,500, respectively, and makes third and subsequent offenses felonies. “I’m very pleased with the enhanced penalties,” said David Pascoe, the solicitor for Orangeburg, Calhoun and Dorchester counties. “(A third offense) needs to be a felony.”

The bill is a revised version of a bill initially sponsored by Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg. That bill languished in the House until April, when Rep. John Graham Altman, R-Charleston, uttered what critics said were insensitive remarks about domestic violence victims during a House Judiciary Committee meeting and to a female WIS television reporter. Altman’s comments made national news and prompted lawmakers to take a renewed interest in the bill. Efforts after Wednesday’s vote to reach Altman, a co-sponsor of the revised bill, were unsuccessful. Cobb-Hunter, who took her name off the revised bill, contending it had become too politicized, said Wednesday she was happy it passed. She praised House Speaker David Wilkins, R-Greenville, and Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, for their leadership. “If they had chosen not to get behind it, it wouldn’t have happened,” she said.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Winston-Salem, Wachovia, and Sara Lee to participate in campaign to prevent domestic violence

The city of Winston-Salem, Wachovia and Sara Lee are participating in a campaign to prevent domestic violence by encouraging male employees to mentor younger men. The program is called Founding Fathers and was created by the Family Violence Prevention Fund, Mayor Allen Joines said while announcing the program yesterday at City Hall. The public is also encouraged to participate. Joines said he has long felt that domestic violence is a problem in Forsyth County. There were more than 4,000 domestic-violence cases reported in the county last year, he said. "This program targets men in a positive way," he said. Men will be encouraged to become "Founding Fathers" by signing a declaration that they will treat others with decency and respect and teach boys that violence does not equal strength.

The public is invited to attend an opening celebration for Founding Fathers from noon to 2 p.m. June 17 at Corpening Plaza in downtown Winston-Salem. Skip Pros-ser, the coach of the men's basketball team at Wake Forest University, will attend along with elected officials. In addition to signing the declaration, men who become Founding Fathers will be urged to mentor boys. Wachovia is providing money for the local Founding Fathers program. Among the officials at the news conference were District Attorney Tom Keith; Sheriff Bill Schatzman; Sylvia Oberle, the director of the Center for Community Safety; and Al Renna, the president of Family Services in Forsyth County.

Renna said he hopes that the program will encourage men to teach boys that violence against women is not acceptable. We learn lots of things in our families ... and unfortunately in some families we learn how to be violent," he said. "As we know, men can become tremendous models for their children." A study done for the Center for Community Safety, which is affiliated with Winston-Salem State University, showed that 80 percent of domestic-violence victims in Forsyth County court cases were female. Defendants had an average of eight prior charges and five prior convictions for offenses other than minor traffic violations. More than 70 percent of the defendants had at least one prior domestic-violence charge, the study showed. More information is available online at