Friday, April 19, 2019

List Series: 10 Cases of Break-Up Violence

Break-up violence is a term that was discussed on an episode of CBS 48 Hours in 2014. The episode, titled "Loved to Death", covered the murder of Lauren Astley, who was strangled to death by her ex-boyfriend Nathaniel Fujita in 2011. Both teens were 18 years old at the time. The show referred to break-up violence as an instance or several instances of violence from an ex-partner after the break-up. 

Break-up violence is very common in relationships that were physically abusive. According to Wendy Mahoney, the executive director for the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence, "women in abusive relationships are about 500 many times more at risk when they leave." However, break-up violence can also occur even if the relationship was not violent at all in the past--which was the case with Nathaniel and Lauren. The Violence Free Coalition of Warren County, Ohio has made a strong effort to inform parents about break-up violence, which is an ongoing issue amongst teens and young adults. According to their studies, a person is "more likely to be seriously injured or killed after a break-up and in 20% of  relationship homicides, the killing itself was the first act of violence." 

The following list includes a series of that involve break-up violence. These tragic cases serve as a reminder to take extra safety precautions when dealing with a potentially violent ex. For more information on staying safe after a break-up, please visit this page. 

10. Emma Walker
Emma Walker (16) and her ex-boyfriend William 'Riley' Gaul (18) pictured together in 2016
Emma and Riley were in a long-term relationship that Emma decided to end in November 2016. Emma's family members did not approve of her relationship with him, and she also felt that the two of them were in different places in life. By that point, Riley was a freshman at Maryville College in Tennessee, while Emma was still a high school student in Knox County. Emma was ready to move on after ending the relationship, but Riley as unwilling to let her go. While home on a break from school, Riley attempted several attempting-seeking tactics in order to lure Emma back to him--some of which almost worked. Two days before her murder, Emma attended a party, during which she began to receive texts from an anonymous number that stated, "Go to your car with your keys. Go alone … I’ve got someone you love. If you don’t comply I will hurt them." The anonymous person also told Emma that said person had been dumped in a ditch near the house where the party was being held. Emma and a few friends walked outside and found Riley laying facedown in the ditch. At that point, Emma's friends began to suspect that Riley was behind the texts himself. 

On November 21st, 2016, Emma was asleep in her bedroom at her family's home. Riley, equipped with his grandfather's gun, approached the house and fired two shots at Emma's bedroom wall from the outside. Bullets traveled through the wall and hit Emma in the head, killing her. Riley pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges and claimed that he fired the shots as another attention-seeking scheme. He claimed his plan was to fire the shots at Emma's bedroom wall to scare her, and then show up again later as the "hero". The jury did not buy his defense, and he was ultimately sentenced to life in prison with a possibility of parole after a minimum of 51 years. [read more]

9. Tiana Notice
Tiana Notice (left), James Carter II (right)
Tiana Notice was only 25 years old when she was brutally murdered by her ex-boyfriend James Carter II on February 14th, 2009. Prior to her death, Tiana lived in Plainville, Connecticut and she met James on a dating site. Around six months into their relationship, James was sentenced to five months in jail for the domestic abuse of a previous girlfriend. It was at this time that Tiana realized that James actually had a long history of many violent crimes including assault. Additionally, Tiana suspected that James was cheating on her. She eventually decided to end her relationship with him, but unfortunately he was not ready to let her go. James began to stalk and harass Tiana after their break-up. She would frequently spot him sitting in his car outside of her apartment building and following her while she took shopping trips. When Tiana finally confronted James about it, he grew so irate that he actually took out a restraining order against her. 

Despite this, James continued to harass and stalk Tiana. When Tiana would report him to the police for violating the restraining order, the police allegedly did not take her seriously. James sent Tiana a plethora of harassing e-mails, all of which she showed to the police--only for them to tell her that the messages were "non-threatening". However, police finally decided to take action in February 2009, after Tiana showed them a handwritten note she believed James had left her on her car's windshield. James grew enraged after police confronted him about the note. On February 14th, 2009, James lurked around Tiana’s apartment complex waiting for her to come home. Once she arrived, James ambushed Tiana and stabbed her 20 times before fleeing the scene. She was still somehow able to make a phone call to 911. Tiana told dispatchers, “I’m bleeding to death. My ex-boyfriend just stabbed me to death.” She lost consciousness shortly thereafter and was rushed to the hospital once paramedics showed up. Just a few hours later, she passed away. James was arrested shortly after Tiana's death and was charged with murder. He was eventually sentenced to 60 years in prison and he remains behind bars today. [read more] Tiana's case was featured on season 1 of ID's 'Primal Instinct', available here on Amazon. 

8. Lauren Astley
Lauren Astley and ex-boyfriend Nathaniel Fujita in 2011
Lauren Astley was murdered by her high school boyfriend, Nathaniel Fujita, on July 3rd, 2011. Both teens were 18 years old at the time. Lauren and Nathaniel began dating when they were sophomores in high school, but by time they were nearing the end of their senior year, Lauren was ready to move on. The two teens from Wayland, Massachusetts were planning to head to different colleges in the fall and Lauren was ready to focus on her future as an independent young adult. She ultimately broke off her relationship with Nathaniel, and he reportedly did not take the break-up well. At a class graduation party held shortly thereafter, Nathaniel had a drunken outburst over Lauren dancing with another boy. He ended up being asked to leave. Additionally, Nathaniel's friends and family members noticed that he was very depressed after the break-up. He no longer appeared excited about college or any aspect of his future. 

Nathaniel's mother grew incredibly concerned about her son's depression. While grasping at straws to find a way to help him, Nathaniel's mother went to visit Lauren at work. She told Lauren about her concerns for Nathaniel, and she asked Lauren to talk to him and try and figure out what was going on. Lauren agreed, and she arranged to meet up with Nathaniel at his family home on the evening of July 3rd, 2011. Lauren arrived at the home shortly after 7pm that evening, while Nathaniel was the only one at the house. Once inside, Nathaniel brought Lauren into the garage, where he slit her throat and then strangled her with a bungee cord. He then disposed of her body in a secluded marsh and abandoned her car at a nearby beach. Despite his attempts to cover his tracks, Nathaniel was quickly identified as a person of interest after Lauren was reported missing. Detectives found a wet gym bag full of bloody clothes in his possession, and shortly thereafter, they found Lauren's remains in the marsh. Nathaniel was arrested the following morning.

At trial, prosecutors stated a clear motive for Lauren’s killing: Nathaniel was angry that his girlfriend broke up with him, so he killed her out of rage. The jury found him guilty of all charges. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole. [read more]

7. Kaylah Hodges
Kaylah Hodges (left), Ethan Reid (right)
Kaylah Hodges (20) was murdered by her ex-boyfriend Ethan Reid (23) on October 3rd, 2016. Kaylah and Ethan had a 7 month-old daughter together, but they were no longer together as a couple. Kaylah ended the relationship after Ethan was allegedly abusive. However Kaylah was still on good terms with Ethan's mother, April. At the time of her death, Kaylah and her daughter lived with April at her home in Scottsville, Kentucky. On the night of of the murder, Ethan showed up at his mother’s residence armed with a rifle. April, who was asleep at the time, was awoken by Kaylah telling her that Ethan had entered the house and that he was armed. April attempted to speak to Ethan as he stood by the front door. He ended up shoving his mother out of the house. April then ran back inside and grabbed Kaylah and Ethan’s infant daughter and was once again shoved against the wall by Ethan as he followed Kaylah out of the house as Kaylah tried to flee. Before she could get away, Ethan shot her in the back and she collapsed.

By this point, a neighbor was able to intervene; said neighbor disarmed and detained Ethan until law enforcement arrived. Once they arrived, Ethan was arrested, and Kaylah was taken to the hospital where she later passed away. Ethan was ultimately charged with first-degree murder after it was revealed that he wrote a Facebook post confessing to what he planned to do shortly before the incident. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. [read more]

6. James Barry
James Barry (right) with ex-girlfriend Melanie Eam (left) in 2016
Girls and women are not the only victims of break-up violence. The murder of 21 year-old James Barry is just one of several examples of break-up violence with a male victim. James was stabbed to death by his ex-girlfriend, 20 year-old Melanie Eam, on November 17th, 2016. The two met in Loxahatchee, Florida, and were involved in an on-again, off-again relationship for about two years. In November 2016, James wanted to end the relationship for good. On the evening of November 16th, James sent Melanie a text message stating that he no longer loved her and wanted to end the relationship. That text reportedly sent Melanie into a fit of rage. She drove to James' mother's home to confront him over the text message break-up, and James continued to maintain that their relationship was over. Fueled by anger, Melanie entered the family's kitchen and grabbed a knife. When she returned to James' bedroom, she began fatally stabbing him to death before fleeing the scene. 

Melanie ultimately fled to her family's home in Silver Spring, Maryland. However, it did not take police long to catch up with her. Three days after the James' death, Melanie was arrested and charged with his murder. She confessed that she killed James in a fit of rage after he broke up with her via text. Despite the confession, Melanie still pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and initially went to trial in September 2018. A mistrial was declared. The case went to trial again in January 2019, and this time the jury found her guilty. Melanie was sentenced to 50 years in prison. [read more]

5. Hannah Leflar

Hannah Leflar (left), Skylar Prockner (right)
Break-up violence is very dangerous on its own, but it can become even more harrowing when multiple people are involved in the violence. This was unfortunately the case for 16 year-old Hannah Leflar, who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend Skylar Prockner on January 12th, 2015. The pair met in Regina, Canada in 2013, and they only dated for six months before Hannah decided to end the relationship in May 2014. Hannah began dating another boy in Regina shortly thereafter, but Skylar was unable to let Hannah go. In October 2014, Skylar came up with a plan that he called “Project Zombify”, which involved recruiting his friends to come up with a plan to harm and possibly kill Hannah’s new boyfriend. Skylar and said friends allegedly made a fake Facebook account so they could stalk Hannah and her new boyfriend’s whereabouts. However, the plan was eventually called off after Hannah ended up breaking up with her new boyfriend. Skylar continued to keep tabs on Hannah through the fake Facebook account, and he asked his friends to keep tabs on her as well. 

By January 2015, Hannah had another new boyfriend.  Skylar found out about this on January 11th, 2015—a day before Hannah was murdered. Skylar grew infuriated after seeing pictures of Hannah and her new boyfriend on Facebook. He decided to text his best friend and asked him if he’d like to put the plan back into action. The friend agreed, however this time, the two boys decided they would target Hannah instead of Hannah's new boyfriend. On the afternoon of January 12th, Skylar's friend lured Hannah to her house after school, where Skylar was already hiding. Once they arrived,  Skylar’s friend watched as Skylar chased Hannah through the house. He overpowered her and then stabbed Hannah ten times in the chest, killing her. Hannah’s body was found later that evening by her stepfather. It did not take investigators long to find out who had killed her, and Skylar was arrested the following day. He was charged as an adult. The other teen who was involved in Hannah’s death was arrested as well, but his charges remained at juvenile status. In July 2017, Skylar was sentenced to life in prison. The friend was sentenced as a juvenile offender and will be released in the future. [read more]

4. Lisa-Marie Naegle
Lisa-Marie Naegle and Jackie Jerome Rogers, a nursing student with whom she was having an affair
During 2016, Lisa-Marie Naegle (36) was having an affair with a man named Jackie Jerome Rogers (34). Lisa-Marie was working as a nursing instructor at the time, and Rogers was one of her students. However, towards the end of that year, Lisa-Marie decided to she wanted to resume a monogamous relationship with her husband Derek Harryman--as the two of them wanted to start having children together. On December 18th, 2016, Lisa-Marie decided to go on one final outing with Rogers. That evening, the two attended a party at Alpine Village bar in Torrance, California. Later, surveillance cameras captured the Lisa-Marie and Rogers leaving the party together. They reportedly returned to Rogers house after that, where Lisa told Rogers she wanted to end their relationship so she could be monogamous with her husband. This revelation caused Rogers to snap. He reportedly grabbed a hammer and struck Lisa-Marie multiple times in the head until she died. Rogers then dumped her body on his property. 

Rogers was immediately looked at as a suspect after Lisa-Marie was reported missing. He initially denied having any information about her whereabouts, but once police confronted him with the surveillance footage of them leaving the bar together, he confessed to killing Lisa-Marie in rage. Rogers was arrested and charged with murder. He went to trial and was ultimately convicted in December 2018. Rogers was sentenced to 26 years in prison. [read more]

3. Vanessa Cocly
Vanessa Cocly (left) and Christian Ruben Valentin Penchi (right)
In March 2018, Christian Ruben Valentin Penchi (32) was not happy with the way things were going in his life. The Orlando, Florida resident was in the midst of a custody battle with his ex-wife, and he had also recently lost his job. Additionally, Christian was feeling depressed over a recent break-up with ex-girlfriend Vanessa Cocly (23). He had been actively trying to rekindle that relationship, but Vanessa was reportedly not interested. 

On the evening of March 31st, 2018, Vanessa left her parent's Orlando home around 8pm after telling them she would be home in a few hours. When she still had not returned by the next morning, Vanessa's parents used her Google Services account to track her phone’s location, which revealed that she was at Christian's home. Although Vanessa and Christian had broken up, Vanessa’s parents were initially not worried; they were relieved to see that she was still in the area and that her phone was still active. Her parents began to worry the following day when they noticed that her phone was shut off. She also had not shown up for her first day of training for her new job at Disney, nor did she show up for Easter dinner. Vanessa’s mother reported her missing around 5pm on April 2nd. She told investigators that Vanessa’s phone had been tracked to Christian’s home the previous day. However, when investigators went to talk to Christian on April 3rd, he was nowhere to be found. He had boarded a flight to Puerto Rico just hours earlier. Investigators later learned that before boarding the flight, Christian visited a pawn shop where he sold a .380 caliber handgun.

Two days later, police finally obtained a warrant to search Christian's condo. Once inside, investigators found Vanessa’s body in the bathroom. She had suffered a gunshot wound to the head. Police captured and arrested Christian in Puerto Rico the following day, where he was arrested and charged with first degree murder. He was extradited back to Florida where he eventually pleaded guilty to second-degree murder charges. [read more]

2. Ashley Doolittle
Ashley Doolittle and Tanner Flores, both 18, pictured together in 2016
Ashley Doolittle and Tanner Flores met in Berthoud, Colorado and began dating in February 2015. According to friends, they had a relatively drama-free relationship, although Tanner had some jealous tendencies. In June 2016, though, Ashley was ready to move on from Tanner. She broke up with him on June 5th, 2016. Tanner reportedly did not see the break-up coming and did not take it well. The two met up for a conversation the following day; at the end of which, Tanner thought him and Ashley were back together. Ashley, on the other hand, began talking with other boys during the following days. Tanner caught wind of this, and began sending Ashley a plethora of texts asking her to meet up and reconsider their relationship. 

On the evening of June 9th, 2016, Ashley agreed to meet up with Tanner at the Lon Hagler Reservoir to discuss their relationship. Upon arriving there, Ashley got into the passenger seat of Tanner's car--not knowing that he was armed with a gun. A conversation about their relationship ensued, but Ashley stood her ground about wanting to break up with Tanner. At that point, Tanner was filled with rage. He would later tell investigators, "she just kind of glared at me and turned away, so I grabbed the gun and shot her. She started twitching and freaking out, so I shot her again. I thought it would be an instant thing.” Tanner then drove Ashley's body over 300 miles away to property owned by his deceased grandfather. He was eventually found there by police, with Ashley's body in the bed of his truck. Tanner was taken into police custody and was eventually charged with first-degree murder. 

Tanner pleaded not guilty, claiming that he did not intend to kill Ashley; that he did so out of rage. However, prosecutors argued that  Ashley could’ve possibly survived the first shot if Tanner had sought help. Instead, he shot her two more times and drove over 300 miles away to hide her body. The jury ultimately ruled in favor of the prosecution, and Tanner was found guilty of first degree murder and second degree kidnapping. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. [read more]

                                        1. Lauren McCluskey

Lauren McCluskey (left) and Melvin Rowland (right)
University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey (21) met Melvin Rowland (37) on September 2nd, 2018, at a bar in Salt Lake City where Melvin worked as a bouncer. The two quickly connected and began dating within days of meeting, however Lauren was unaware that Melvin had lied to her about numerous things. Eventually, though, Lauren learned that Melvin had lied about his age and that he had previous felony convictions for attempted forcible sexual abuse and enticing a minor. After learning about this, Lauren invited Melvin to her dorm room on October 9th, 2018 to end the relationship. 

Although the break-up itself appeared to occur without incident, Lauren's issues with Melvin only escalated after-the-fact. She began to receive harassing text messages from people claiming to be Melvin's friends. Those texts eventually escalated to extortion--Lauren ended up contacting the police after she began to receive text messages demanding $1000 in exchange for the privacy of intimate pictures of Lauren and Melvin that were taken while they were dating. Lauren ended up wiring the money to an account after the person threatened to post the pictures online. Even though she complied with these demands, Lauren received another threatening message six days later, on October 19th. Unbeknownst to Lauren, Melvin was lurking around the University of Utah campus near her dorm at this time.

Melvin continued to lurk around Lauren's dorm from the dates of October 19th to October 22nd. On the evening of October 22nd, 2018, Lauren was talking on the phone with her mother as she exited her dorm to walk to night classes. Once she reached the parking lot, Lauren was confronted by Melvin. Lauren's mother heard her shout "no, no, no!" before Lauren dropped her phone. Melvin then grabbed Lauren and dragged her inside of a car. Just shortly before 9pm, Lauren's body was found inside that car in front of another dorm building. She had been shot to death. 

Police eventually spotted Melvin hours later, who lead them on a chase to a nearby church where Melvin shot himself in the head, killing himself. [read more] [timeline]

For additional reading/resources..
[Domestic Violence Safety Plan Workbook] [Teen Murder in Suburbia

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