Twenty-one years ago this weekend on the day after Thanksgiving, a sixteen-year old young man broke into my eighty-five year old grandmother’s home in Georgetown. Her name was Thelma Lackey but we called her Mimmie. He then burglarized her home, assaulted and killed her. He continued his crime spree, was convicted of another twelve burglaries over about a fifteen year period, until he was apprehended for her murder using DNA evidence. He pled guilty several years ago and is now serving a seventy-two year sentence in prison.
This criminal’s actions have had a profound effect on me and my family. It was one of the inspirations for me to seek public office. Since that time, I have done my best to advocate for crime victims, especially women and children, in a variety of ways and will continue to do so.
So, lately, with the anniversary of Mimmie’s death on my mind, I have been thinking a lot about several news stories I have read. In Nov. 23rd edition of the Williamson County Sun newspaper in Georgetown, the headlines read “Domestic violence challenges police” and “Pregnant woman attacked.” The headline of the Nov. 27th Austin American Statesman newspaper is “Domestic violence on the increase.”
In particular, news reports about the case of Terry Pittman of Georgetown, a mother of four, who was killed by her former boyfriend, Anthony Blackmon, at her home, are troubling. Mr. Blackmon, a former Travis County correctional officer, killed Ms. Pittman on Halloween of this year, then turned the gun on the Georgetown police and was killed himself. In the article in Sun, it says, “In many cases, it can be tough for victims to seek the help they need. In the case of Ms. Pittman, she had previously tried multiple times to seek protective orders against the man who would eventually murder her, family said.” Also, in a published report on http://www.kut.org, Dee Hobbs, criminal court chief for County Attorney Jana Duty, says that Ms. Pittman contacted their office for a protective order. He then says, “The burden through this process seems to always be on the shoulder of our victims,” he said. “And it’s a frustrating process when we tell them you know, ‘it’s going to take this long — it’s probably going to take this many settings in court to try to get you the relief that you want….I don’t know that it’s a failure of the process; I think the process could be better, but I don’t know how we would do it and still ensure the rights of both sides.”
Over the last several days, I have spoken to several folks familiar with the protective order process in Williamson County, such as victims’ rights advocates, family law attorneys, former assistant county attorneys and more. I still have more data to gather, but I hope that we can, as Mr. Hobbs suggests in the quote from KUT, improve the process.
Also, I urge all victims of domestic violence to seek help. A 24-hour hotline is available, 1-800-460-SAFE (7233), to assist. Also, in our county, we support Hope Alliance, a non-profit agency which serves as “Williamson County’s Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Program.” Their website, http://hopealliancetx.org has much more info on this topic.
(This column consists of my opinion and observations and does not reflect the opinions of other people or organizations.)