This is how love ends. At 2:34 a.m., a man creeps into the back yard. He unscrews the lightbulb that floods the wall. The dog barks, slightly disturbing one sleeping resident, Vaughan Cannon, 81, but he goes back to sleep. The intruder removes the screen and breaks the kitchen window. It's all there on the surveillance videotape. He climbs right into the suburban house in the northwest Valley. An hour later, he leaves via the front gate, a little blood on his finger.
Marina Cannon, 49, Vaughan's daughter and the intruder's ex-wife, lays dead on the floor of her bedroom, stabbed more than a dozen times in the chest, abdomen and arms, shot twice—once behind her right ear, shattering the top of her spine, once in her chest, through her heart and lung.
It was December 23, 2000. Six months before, they'd split up. More than five years before that, they'd fallen in love. Love. That's what makes this complicated, isn't it? That there was once love, that there might still be love, that passions flood far beyond the boundaries of fondness and kindness and compatibility and mutual agreements, that everybody knows love sleeps with baser emotions, maybe jealousy and possessiveness, maybe fear, maybe, in the twisted workings of the heart and head, a desperate obsession, a violent insecurity, an insane refusal to be denied.
"At one time, I thought my daughter's husband was a friend of mine," Vaughan Cannon told the court after the murder conviction of Vitaly Zakouto, her ex-husband, a year after Cannon had found his daughter's bloodied body. "But it turned out different."
The signs showed up over time—Zakouto was possessive and temperamental, court records say. Marina's adult son had seen him wield a crowbar once. There were broken windows and holes in walls. He had dragged her around the house. Once, her son had found her cowering in a bedroom closet.
This was not Marina's legacy, however. Marina fought like hell. She separated from him. She filed a protective order. He repeatedly called. He looked in her windows. He threatened to harm her. She moved away from him, in with her dad, put up a video-surveillance system, told friends and family that she thought he was going to kill her, told the police, told her employer. But he was a man obsessed, a crazed stalker bent on getting at her regardless of the number of arrests, regardless of her attempts to hide. Marina even wrote into her will, her son said at the funeral, that her final wish was to create awareness of the consequences of domestic violence.
The Cannon-Zakouto story was a classic stalking case:
"The state alleges that this murder was the culmination of a campaign of harassment, intimidation, and violence extending at least six months before the killing ... When he was initially contacted by the police, he told them he couldn't have been [at the murder scene] because he didn't know where she resided. But his car was seen across the street from the house in which the victim was killed one day before the killing. Someone called 911 about it being there with someone in it all day ...
"There were two specific death threats against her by him before ...
"The defendant has prior misdemeanor convictions for battery, battery/domestic violence, and numerous arrests involving violence ... [including] repeated violations of a protective order that put him in jail ... [and] required him to refrain from contact with the murder victim."
But a judge had let Zakouto out of jail early, according to court records, and he murdered his ex-wife within the time he would've finished out a 60-day sentence.
When Vaughan hadn't seen his daughter later that morning of the 23rd, he finally checked her bedroom. He saw her on the floor near the master bathroom and thought she had fainted, records say. Then he touched her cold arm, and started to cry.
"Miss Cannon did everything right," said Sgt. Chuck Pierce, who heads up Metro's domestic violence unit. "She told everybody in the whole wide world that she thought he was going to kill her. But the police can't be there 24/7. We can't make him stop."
In fact it's not clear that the local judicial system can reliably control domestic violence at all.
If you need help in a domestic abuse situation or would like more information on temporary shelter, counseling or advice:
Safe Nest Hotline (702) 646-4981
Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline 800-500-1556
LVMPD Victim/Witness Assistance 229-2955
Shade Tree shelter hotline (702) 385-4596
In 2003, Metro had 19,608 domestic violence cases, not including those that turned into murder cases, and not reflecting the thousands of incidents that go unreported. There were 20,271 cases in 2004, including those that involved attempted murder, bodily harm, kidnapping, home invasion, burglary and harassment. The number of domestic violence cases per capita in Las Vegas outpaces that of Los Angeles and New York City—and in the 12-month period beginning July 2003, 20 women were murdered in domestic violence cases here. Nevada ranked first among the number of women killed by men and fourth among U.S. states in domestic violence homicides, according to a 2000 study by Violence Policy Center, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C.
This is how domestic violence begins.
Stalking and beating are not about love. But try explaining that to the women standing outside Family Court some day, women dressed up in pantsuits and pumps prepared to meet the judge, women who have been hit and taken him back, women who believed him when he said he was sorry the last three or 12 or 20 times, women who are finally here to extend a protective order to keep him away, but who can look you straight in the eye and say that after the last time they split, she took him back because we still love each other. For them it becomes a rancid cycle of confusion and abuse, which spreads to include the cops, courts and counselors, and ultimately, the taxpayers and community at large.
Jennifer (whose name has been changed for her protection) is disarmingly sweet; a pretty, petite girl with a soft smile. But her persona seems wholly discordant with her life story, which she tells in a tender but matter-of-fact voice, while waiting for her moment in court: She's seen her father beat her mother, her stepfather beat her mother; she's survived her uncle shooting and killing her aunt and then killing himself. She's been hit by her boyfriend, thrown out of a car by him and threatened with further harm. She had an abortion while the father of the child was busy cheating with another girl and continuing to threaten her; she's talked to cops and DA's and judges; she carries around a folder that contains desperate love letters and drawings of a body with its head cut off sent to her by her violent ex-boyfriend while he was in jail. She is 20.
And on this day, she's one of the young women in this busy hallway, not yet out of her own story, not yet out of the cycle of abuse. She's nervous—she's here to request that a 30-day temporary protective order against her ex-boyfriend be extended for a year. He's here, too, standing down the hall among other broken couples and the children they all share, along with a few attorneys and a few supportive family members. He's wearing an oversized sweatshirt and is inked and pierced, and he steps outside to smoke a cigarette while they wait for their case to be called. They do not speak to one another.
The two met in high school, fell in love, and soon enough he gave her a black eye. "I was naïve and he did the whole 'I'll never hurt you again' thing, so I didn't call the police," she recalls now. Shortly thereafter, on Super Bowl Sunday, he hit her again—for not peeling potatoes fast enough, she says—and threw her into his Camaro to take her to her home. On the way, he pulled out a baseball bat and threatened her. The bat somehow flew out of the car, but he pulled over and threw her out onto the ground, all the while yelling and threatening further abuse. This time, she called the police.
A judge issued a seven-day temporary protective order preventing contact, and her boyfriend got community service and anger-management classes. She says he did one day's worth of community service—not the full amount ordered by the judge—and the foreman signed his paperwork. Similarly, the counselor waived his counseling requirements after one session, she says, and he came home laughing. "He got around it, and he thought it was funny," she says.
From there, he got into other legal scuffles. Throughout, he continued the push-and-pull relationship with Jennifer—saying he loved her and couldn't live without her, and then threatening her if she fell out of line. "He would say that if he can't have me, no one can."
Somehow, although she knew better, she took his calls when he was in jail. She believes he may be bipolar, she remembers when he was a nice guy, she has connections to his family and mutual friends.
By early spring 2004, Jennifer was pregnant and having trouble with the pregnancy. When she spent time in the hospital, she says, "He would call and laugh." Later, she says, after she had an abortion, she found out he had been cheating on her when the other girl called to apologize and say that she, too, had been threatened by him.
"Then, after he got arrested [for one of the other legal problems], it just seemed like he had nothing to lose, and it just started freaking me out because it reminded me of the [events] leading up to my uncle killing my aunt," she says.
In that 1997 Las Vegas case, her aunt had tried to leave her uncle, and moved in with a friend, but he wouldn't let her go. He found her and allegedly raped her in the airport parking lot. Later, he shot and killed her in their house, and then shot and killed himself. He left a note saying it was because she cheated on him and he couldn't live without her.
So today, in Family Court, Jennifer plans to show the judge the letters her ex-boyfriend had written to her from jail that say he can't live without her, and that he'll hurt himself if she leaves him, along with the drawing of the beheaded body; she plans to remind the judge that he had opened her bedroom window and dropped a letter in while she was in the shower; she plans to ask the judge to extend the 30-day temporary protective order to a full year. She and her mother wait outside the courtroom, until finally, way past their scheduled court time, they're called inside. Jennifer is directed to the plaintiff's desk, her ex is directed to the defendant's desk, and they each sit alone in front of the judge.
It happens in less than 10 minutes, easily. The judge reads piecemeal from paperwork, something about "failed relationship" and "he pulled you out of a vehicle onto the ground ... accepted a plea bargain in April, 2004 ..."
The judge then looks up and asks for each of their input. Jennifer freezes. Maybe the system is too big, too intimidating; no one's ever prepared her for what to do here. She says nothing except that yes, she wants the protection order extended. She doesn't produce the folder, the drawing, the letters. She doesn't offer any new evidence at all.
The defendant denies ever threatening her life: "I cared for her a great deal. ... I had threatened to harm myself. ... Since then I seeked help from a psychiatrist."
The judge says he thinks there should be a further cooling off period and extends the TPO by three months. Case closed. Jennifer tries to show the bailiff the folder she's assembled, the drawing, the letters, but it's too late. She's ushered out. It's somebody else's turn, and there are dozens more to go. Outside the courtroom Jennifer says, "I didn't really understand anything. If I would've been in there a little longer I would've gotten to explain it further."
Within those three months in which his TPO is extended, her ex will be picked up for violating a drug test, and Metro will find a warrant on him for previously violating his protective order in Henderson, and he will be locked up for another short sentence. He will send word to friends, who will tell Jennifer that "'as soon as the clock strikes 12 on the day the temporary protective order is up, I'm calling her to find out why she did this to me.'" He will tell his friends, who will tell her, "'When it's all over she's going to get what's coming to her.'"
They stay in it because they're financially dependent or because they're afraid he'll be more violent if they leave; they stay in it because they have kids whom they don't want to drag through a separation or because they have no other friends or family or because they're embarrassed or because they just don't know how to get help. They stay because they're intimidated by negotiating the justice system. The average abused woman puts up with 7 to 14 beatings before calling for help the first time.
"I listen to the victims day in and day out, and they all have one thing in common: They have little to zero self-esteem," Deputy District Attorney Alexandra Chrysanthis, who heads up the five-attorney domestic violence unit, said. "Why can't we institute a program for self-esteem for girls; let them know they have value early on in life, so that when they're 17, 18, 19 years old and start getting into these kind of relationships, they'll say 'No,' they'll say, 'I have choices'? They tell me they're stuck, but they're not stuck. It's a choice. It's a hard, hard choice."
Kathleen Brooks, associate director of Safe Nest, Nevada's largest domestic violence shelter and advocacy program, says it doesn't help matters that police sometimes arrest the victim, too, charging her with domestic abuse for fighting back, and that prosecutors require the victim to show up in court in order to prosecute.
"But if the victim doesn't come to court, a lot of times I don't have a case," Chrysanthis responds. "I mean, sometimes you'll have eyewitnesses even if she recants—but it doesn't always work out that way, and even if it does, they don't want him prosecuted.
"I had a case where a guy was beating his wife, and a 12-year-old eyewitness saw it. Well, the wife recanted, but the young lady said, 'No I saw it happen.' And we played the 911 tape, and the woman cried. But the defendant started laughing. The judge gave him jail time. So you think you win. But outside the courtroom, the wife came up to me and said, 'What am I going to do now? It's Christmas and how are we going to afford it with him in jail?'"
It's frustrating to all involved, even when they're doing their professional best to help:
"You don't judge them," Pierce said. "Sometimes, when you first start, you'll see they just go from one bad relationship to another. It's like they have a flag above their head that says 'Beat me.' But you just have to keep trying, and they have do it, they have ask for help."
Metro Det. Joel Smith says the goal is to break this three-phase cycle that repeats itself in an abusive relationship: Phase one is tension building, as the initial infatuation of the relationship fades and controlling behavior starts. Phase two is the violent event, either physical, verbal or psychological. Phase three is the honeymoon phase, in which the abuser becomes tender and apologetic and often buys flowers or presents or writes love letters, promising never to do it again. After that, the couple returns to phase one, and tension builds for the next violent act.
Typical traits of an abuser are that he blames others for his feelings and problems, is jealous and controlling, hypersensitive, rigid in his expectations and verbally and physically explosive. The abuser asserts power and control by isolating the victim from family and friends, intimidating her, keeping her economically dependent and minimizing her feelings and opinions.
"Perpetrators live what they learn," Brooks said. "They grow up primarily in violent families, they learn that women are objects, or they themselves were victims, or they may have witnessed Mom and Dad using power and control and saw that to them it works."
Metro has two full-time victim-witness advocates and a stable of volunteers to help victims try to help themselves, but they aren't able to reach them all. "We try to get our name and number out," advocate Peggy Wellman said. "But our community is not as aware as it should be that we can help."
Sometimes Metro advocates get referrals from UMC or a shelter, and many come from the cops out on the beat, who come back to the office and say, Listen, I think this woman needs help.
In a tiny three-desk room in the back of a Metro office on West Charleston, Wellman and Ophelia Monje work shoulder to shoulder with one of a rotating lineup of volunteers, who make phone calls to victims to see if they're OK. Volunteers make more than 100 calls a week.
"We will go with victims and help them with the protective order," Peggy said.
Advocates also try to talk to the victims about empowerment. "I start with self-esteem issues," Monje says. "I encourage them to look for a job. We're not counselors, but we can help." For counseling, the women are referred to shelters such as Safe Nest.
Safe Nest provided client services to 69,082 locals in 2003. The organization provided some 18,000 counseling sessions for victims, assisted in 8,568 temporary protective orders and provided hot line counseling to 21,565 crisis callers. The shelter provides more than 100 beds to women and children fleeing violent situations.
In 1981, the Nevada legislature voted to send $5 (now $15) of every marriage license fee to fund such domestic violence prevention programs.
This is how we've failed to substantially fix the problem. It seems that cops and courts and counselors have in some sense been co-opted by the cycle of abuse. Cases don't get resolved in a manner that ends the cycle. Repeat offenders are common and pack courts, jails, shelters and counseling offices, all of which are already overflowing. Anecdotes of perpetrators who get light punishment—short sentences, community service or brief stints of anger-management counseling—are easy to come by. And a significant portion of the cases fall through the cracks of the system altogether, says Pierce, whose 12 detectives each handle about 200 cases a month. "Less than one-third end up with the guy in jail, I'd say."
He can't say for sure, however, because Metro doesn't track what happens to their domestic violence cases—there is no central system through which Metro can communicate with the various courts and counselors to record outcomes. Pierce says that'd take a computer network that isn't in the budget yet.
Chrysanthis agrees that Southern Nevada's treatment of domestic violence is disorganized and lacks teeth, and as a result, is somewhat ineffective. "It's very frustrating. We're totally overwhelmed. I could have five more attorneys and keep them all busy.
Chrysanthis also says her office doesn't track how many cases it handles per year. "But I'll tell you this: It's staggering. We're in court every single day. Today I had three cases myself." Of those three, she said, one defendant pled guilty, one negotiated a lesser charge, and one victim didn't show up so there was no hearing. She estimates she has "about 30 seconds" to talk to each of her victims before going into court.
And Brooks says, "Our [judicial] system here has a lot of limitations. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give it a 4. Especially since I've been in other states that do a far better job.
"First, we're not getting police officers trained [on how to handle domestic violence cases] as quickly as they need to be. They don't know how to handle calls. They threaten to arrest the victim with the perpetrator often. Second, there is frustration because of the lack of prosecution. The cases get dropped or dismissed. Or the charges get lowered," Brooks says.
"It's a matter of overcrowded courts, and blaming the victim for not getting out of it. Third, I don't think that all of our judges and prosecutors are well-trained in domestic violence. Family Court is a nightmare. You get lost in the system."
The laws themselves require victims to keep returning to court and are weak, cops and advocates agree.
After police arrest an abuser on domestic violence charges, Family Court can issue a protective order, which requires the offender to stay 100 yards away from the victim at all times and not attempt to contact via phone, e-mail or mail, for seven to 10 days, sometimes extended to as long as 45 days. But another domestic violence incident must occur for the victim to reapply to extend the protection order, requiring victims to return to court frequently for extensions. (In California, protective orders can be issues for as long as three years.) Also, each violation of a TPO is a misdemeanor, and Smith says it would help if violations progressively escalated to felonies after a certain number. As it stands, it's just misdemeanor after misdemeanor after misdemeanor.
Similarly, although domestic violence with substantial bodily harm is a felony by state law, if there's no substantial bodily harm; i.e.; the need for hospital care—no broken bones, no major organ damage—the charge is usually a misdemeanor. It takes three convictions within seven years on misdemeanor domestic battery without substantial bodily harm to become a felony.
Further, state law allows defendants to have misdemeanor battery charges dropped if they can negotiate a civil compromise with the victim, who is often easily persuaded by the perpetrator or discouraged/re-victimized by the system.
More inconsistency shows up due to jurisdiction. Punishment can be different for domestic violence perpetrators depending on where the offense occurred—in the city, or in the unincorporated areas of Clark County.
Pierce explains, "The district attorney has murder cases. Their caseload is the most serious crimes. So where does domestic violence fall? At the bottom. The city handles only misdemeanors, so where does battery and domestic violence fall? It's their top thing. So it depends on where it happens. If they're in the city, it will get attention. If it happens in the unincorporated areas, a lot slip through the cracks in the DA's office.
"It also depends which judge you're in front of," Pierce said. "They all have their own idea of what domestic violence is."
That, says Chrysanthis, has a wider impact than in some other types of felony cases, because there is more variation in people's beliefs about domestic violence issues than about, say, murder. "I respect them as judges. But [some of them] grew up and their dad smacked their moms, so they have a way of seeing it. Or they're hunters, and they don't want [the defendant] to lose his right to carry a gun [which is required if convicted]. This is frustrating."
Judge Karen Bennett-Haron, a Justice Court judge who often sees domestic violence cases come in at their earliest stages and frequently refers them to Family Court, says, "Law enforcement has a very difficult task deciphering what's [a real accusation] and what's not, and so do judges. It turns on each case. It's difficult to give you a blueprint."
Every afternoon in the District Courthouse, after the day's cases have gone before the judge, the district attorneys in the domestic violence unit prepare for the next day's cases by listening to their 911 tapes.
"They all start to run together, in terms of trying to distinguish them."
Chrysanthis supports the idea of creating a Domestic Court, in which defendants would be, as in Juvenile Court, separated alphabetically and assigned a prosecutor and judge that would be the same upon any return, so that their cases would be familiar, and not random and unfamiliar at each return. "A while ago, there was talk about creating [such a court]," she said. "But it went nowhere. It would be really beneficial to have the community focus on this."
We should be glad that the system exists. It's so cold to say it that way, system, so loaded with implications of bureaucracy and alienation and failure. Still, it says something that as a society, as a community, a decision has been made: It's wrong. We won't sanction it anymore by turning our heads, by giving every violent person the right to terrorize "loved" ones behind closed doors. In fact, it's so abhorrent to us that we don't just treat is as violence, as a battery—our lawmakers have created laws that allow for enhancing the seriousness of the crime because it happens between people in a personal relationship. Domestic violence.
Yet somewhere in here is the cry of a forlorn feminist. What happened? Wasn't there a grass-roots movement that began to convince women that they didn't have to take this kind of abuse? Didn't have to get into these relationships? Why do they still come in by the hundreds, by the thousands? Can courts really make a difference in behavior that seems rooted in the complicated workings of human failings, particularly when the crimes involve two people who once danced this thing together, once both professing to be in love?
"Well, culturally, we still tend to minimize the abuse of women," Brooks said. "And we have to combat that, we have a long way to go still." Vegas, she said, is particularly guilty of objectifying women, which she says contributes to domestic violence here. She worked in San Diego before Vegas. "I certainly see it other places, but it's very acceptable in terms of media and billboards here.
"And there's not a place here really for women who want to encourage women who don't want to be treated like this."
That's what's good about the existence of the system, messy and unreliable as it may be. Beneath its failings, it at least succeeds in keeping the issue in the light. In acknowledging it—although acknowledging it isn't enough—the system stands there saying, when we habitually prefer to ignore the heinousness of it all, "Look."
I decide to believe this even as I consider the following story, on a day when I'm roaming the parking lot at the Wal-Mart on Spring Mountain and Rainbow.
Couples by the dozen are going in and out of the store; couples, one would imagine, of varying degrees of happiness. There's an old man with a cane and his bee-lining wife, who is three steps ahead. There are young couples with kids, the parents looking frazzled. There's a teenaged couple, they're laughing and playfully pushing one another, she's almost skipping as they head inside.
One night last fall, a woman ran toward these same doors. She had already been shot once. She was bleeding. She was shot again by a man in the parking lot—her ex-husband. She collapsed here, right in the doorway. Blood everywhere.
He turned away and shot himself.
Eric Chan succeeded in killing himself, but not his ex-wife. Her injuries were serious, but she survived.
Two years earlier, he had kidnapped this estranged wife at gunpoint from her bed, beaten her, handcuffed her, and threatened to kill her. At some point during the night, as he drove her around town in a craze, he changed his mind and took her home, and told her not to call the police or else. She did, however, call the police, and he was indicted for first-degree kidnapping and burglary with a deadly weapon.
In 2003, Chan pled to a second-degree kidnapping with a deadly weapon charge. But as part of his plea arrangement, his sentence of two consecutive terms of up to 10 years in prison was suspended. Instead, he got five years of probation, some counseling, and had to wear an electronic monitoring device for a year.
Then he attacked her at Wal-Mart.
Standing in the doorway now, there is no blood, no attempted murder, no suicide, no private saga exposed in a horrific explosion of public violence. It's forgotten. You wouldn't know this is where a love that had turned into a power struggle and then into a violent obsession came to its conclusion. You wouldn't know that what goes on deep in the hearts and minds of one-time lovers soured here, you wouldn't know that one in three of the people walking through these doors on this blasé afternoon may be involved in some stage of domestic violence.
You wouldn't know unless you saw the half-dollar-sized Wal-Mart happy-face sticker on the door frame. Unless you went over to it, felt it, felt the jagged hole underneath its shiny façade. You wouldn't know unless you knew, as I do, that this is a bullet hole left by a man who intended to kill a woman he believed he loved.
This is how domestic violence ends. Mary (whose name has been changed) walks into Metro's offices, unknown, disheveled, with a chunk of her hair cut out and two little boys by her side. It is March 2003. She begins to tell a story about how she and her husband had, three months earlier, gotten into a fight at a casino and he'd left her there. She took a cab to her dad's house. The husband, Dr. Juan Manzur, became enraged when he couldn't find her later, and he went to her father's business and threatened the older man if he didn't turn her over. After finding her, he lured her back to their house by telling her that one of her sons was sick, she'd better come home.
So she went home that night, she tells the cops in the Metro office, and when she checked on her son, he was fine, asleep in his bedroom. Manzur then attacked her with a knife, stabbing her from behind in the legs and buttocks, a stabbing meant to torture, not to kill.
Did you call the police? an officer asks.
No, she says, I was afraid.
Manzur threw all of her clothes in the pool, made her get them out, and made her clean up the blood in the house. Later, he took her to his clinic to stitch up one of the wounds, and he gave her a shot for pain that knocked her out. When she woke up, she had been sexually assaulted.
Mary goes into a private room with a female officer and shows her the stab wounds; it is exactly as she said.
"We couldn't believe it," Detective Joel Smith recalls today. Cops later went to her house and found that every detail of her complaint was true: holes in the walls, broken lamps and, in a place where she normally displayed a religious picture, her husband had taken it down and put up a picture of O.J. Simpson.
In subsequent interviews, she said her husband kept her under video surveillance, that there was a webcam through which he could monitor her actions; that he'd isolated her from family and friends, and abused their boys. Police later found a huge collection of the videos.
She had been with him, enduring this sort of abuse in secret, for 13 years.
In the late 1990s, Dr. Juan Manzur was a respected internist in Vegas—he operated his own allergy clinic, and ran unsuccessfully for state Senate in 1996. Until his arrest for 11 charges related to the abuse of his wife, his main appearances in the news was a photo in the Las Vegas Sun of him tending to children, and a few articles about the state Senate race.
"It can be anyone, you just never know what happens when people go home," Pierce said. "One in three of us has been a victim, suspect or is currently in an abusive relationship. It comes in all shapes and sizes. It's typically men, the information on primary aggressors that we have is that 80 to 85 percent of abusers are male."
Manzur was convicted on 10 counts and sentenced to a minimum of nine years in prison. Through counseling and determination, Mary has begun to rebuild her life.
"Hers is a success story. I believe this lady has made huge strides. I believe she has made huge, huge strides—you can see it when you talk to her, she used to barely make eye contact, but she holds her head up now," Smith says. "I believe she'll show up at his parole hearing, when it comes, and give reasons to keep him in."
The reason she finally came in to Metro in March 2003, Smith said, was that she had secretly been hiding money, taking it from the till at his clinic, planning to save enough to leave—and he found it.
"She knew that if she went home, he'd kill her. I truly believe that she'd be dead or maimed," Smith said. "So we're so glad she came in. It saved her life."