Giunta-Cotter had hopscotched across New England seeking safety in shelters before deciding that she and her children couldn’t hide from her husband forever. She moved back home to Amesbury, hoping that her children would at least escape if he came for her.
That exact scenario soon came to pass. Days after holding her hostage at the house, and being released on $500 bail, William Cotter killed his wife and then himself with a sawed-off shotgun, after blowing past their 11-year-old daughter at the door. Another daughter was at a friend’s house.
Mosure was impregnated at 14 by her 24-year-old boyfriend and had a second child with him before finishing high school. When the youngest started school, she enrolled in nursing school, although she learned she had to marry Rocky Mosure to get financial aid not tied to her parents’ income.
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“For Michelle, it was the biggest irony of her life, a system that forced her to marry a man she was working so hard to leave,” Snyder writes.
Not long after, Mosure shattered the window of the bolted back door at her mother’s house, where she had dropped off their children. When his parents bailed him out of jail, an alarmed Michelle Mosure recanted her affidavit and moved back in with Mosure. Two months later, he killed her and the children in their basement before turning the gun on himself.
Authorities in both communities realized that shelters alone were not a solution, that danger peaked after an arrest and that abusers need to be jailed or monitored until victims can make a safety plan. They also concluded that guns increase the risk exponentially.
For many people in volatile relationships, child custody issues can be especially treacherous.
“You are tied to that person you have a child with for 18 years, even longer, honestly. For a lot of our clients, that is a very terrifying thing,” said Stacy Dougherty, community outreach director at Laurel House, a domestic violence shelter in the Philadelphia suburbs, where two women were killed in recent months during custody exchanges at convenience stores.
After spending 10 years researching domestic violence for her book, the issue hit close to home for Snyder last week, when a couple she knew from her daughter’s school community in Washington, D.C., died in a murder-suicide during a contentious divorce. Snyder, a friend of the extended family, said Jason Rieff was set to lose custody of their children while Lola Gulomova took them overseas on her next State Department assignment.
According to a police report cited by The Washington Post, Rieff shot himself in the head after police arrived Friday morning. They found Gulomova’s body in another room.
Snyder, faced with the difficult task of telling her daughter about the deaths, has not had time to fully analyze it yet.
“All I know is that this underscores the importance of my book and my work, and that people get desperate when they feel there is no way out,” she said Tuesday. “We’ve made progress in that we know more” about domestic violence. “But we’ve lost ground in that this is still happening in such numbers.”