Friday, November 05, 2010 1:10:59 PM
Domestic violence gets dramatic airing at moving forum
Written by DAPHNE TAYLOR
Special to South Florida Times
Jennie Carter thought she was sending her two young children to the store with their father for an hour or so. They’d been preparing for a trip to Georgia to see snow for the first time but their father, her ex-husband, begged to see the kids before they left. Carter was hesitant but allowed him to take them.
Instead of going to the store, their father took Nelson, 10, and Crystal, 8, to his house and set it on fire, killing them and himself.
He did it, Carter, 41, of Lake Worth, said, to get back at her for leaving their abusive relationship.
“I handed my kids to a killer,” Carter said, choking up as she recalled the 2006 tragedy before an audience at New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in West Palm Beach on Oct. 16, as part of the observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.
The issue was already at the forefront in Palm Beach County, after the worst murder-suicide in the history of the county in September when Patrick Alexander Dell, 41, shot and killed his estranged wife Natasha Whyte-Dell and four of her children in their Riviera Beach home. The couple had a long history of domestic violence.
Carter said she wanted to put an end to such tragedies and four years after she lost her children, she continues to speak out against domestic violence. Then state Sen. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, was so moved by her advocacy that he sponsored a domestic violence bill in honor of Carter.
The law requires judges to consider charges of domestic or sexual abuse, involving either parent, when granting custody or arranging visitation. Carter believes if her ex-husband had supervised visits with their children, they might still be alive.
“I am so proud to have passed this legislation… While there is no doubt that children benefit from spending time with both parents, it is always necessary to determine how best to protect the child,” Deutch said upon passage of the bill.
Carter said she became an advocate to honor her children. “It doesn’t take a lot of people to change a law. It takes one person,” she told the audience.
While passing laws is important, changing the mindset regarding domestic violence in the black community is an altogether different challenge, especially when it comes to the black church, said the Rev. Johnnie Ray “J.R.” Thicklin, senior pastor of Kingdom Harvest Ministries of West Palm Beach and president of Destiny By Choice.
Thicklin has held several positions in the past 20 years related to domestic violence and is regarded as a trailblazer in breaking the silence in the church. He organized the session, titled, “Domestic Violence and Faith in the African American Community – Barriers and Bridges Community Forum,” bringing together Carter and other domestic violence victims, experts and citizens to raise awareness of the prevalence of domestic violence in the black community and the role that faith plays in the lives of victims and perpetrators.
Thicklin is writing a book, Hush: What the Church Didn’t Tell You about Domestic Violence, due out next year. His company helps the faith community deal with what is regarded as a sensitive subject. He said the church, which is usually a safe haven in the black community, hasn’t dealt with the issue well in the past.
Ivanah Thomas of Orlando agreed. Today, she is a successful business owner, but when she was 19 she was married to an abusive man 21 years her senior and a minister. The church, including the pastor, “turned a blind eye” and no one would help her, she said, and her husband was allowed to continue as a minister.
Thicklin said it was not uncommon to find preachers, among other powerful men, dealing with domestic violence in their own lives. “Research will show you that there’s a lot of domestic violence in positions such as pastors, law enforcement, lawyers and athletes,” he said. “People who are in empowering positions often have a problem with power themselves.”
The Rev. Antoinne “A.J.” Wright, senior pastor of Shiloh Family Worship Center Ministries in Riviera Beach, said even helping victims in the church can be a sensitive subject. He encourages his parishioners to get away from their abuser. But he told of an instance where he suggested a woman leave her abuser. She reconciled with him and was upset with Wright, saying he was wrong to tell her to leave her relationship.
Debi Stewart, of West Palm Beach, understands why some women stay. The longtime television host in Palm Beach County said at the forum that, years ago, she stayed in an abusive marriage because she was “determined to fix it.” She had been ashamed to admit that, as a well known reporter, she was suffering abuse at home. She recalled putting on heavy stage make-up to cover up a black eye before conducting an on-camera interview.
But she stayed two years after the first incidence of violence, because her family frowned upon divorce. She eventually left when her young daughter unwittingly shared a startling revelation: The 3-year old equated the violence of another pre-schooler toward her with the little boy “liking” her.
Witnessing abuse in the home had resulted in her daughter’s confusion regarding love – even at such a young age, she said. Stewart said at that point she left her husband, refusing to allow her daughter to grow up with such psychological scars.
“I could’ve been killed trying to stay and make it work,” she said.
Statistics support that possibility. According to destinybychoice.org, every six hours a woman is killed by domestic violence, a domestic violence act occurs every 12 seconds, resulting in more than four million victims per year.
Also, African-American women are disproportionately affected by domestic violence, but the issue is hushed in the black community. The reason, Stewart said, is that African Americans have been taught, “You don’t air your dirty laundry.”
For additional background, see this 2006 post from Trench Reynold at Bad Breeders. Notice how Camacho was defended by the Florida fathers rights crowd at the time of the murders:
Tony Camacho Burns Himself, Kids to Spite His Wife
Tony Camacho always told his estranged wife that one day, she’d come home and he and their kids would be gone. Well, the son of a bitch was true to his word. Weeks before his ex, Jennie Carter, was slated to take possession of their former marital home in Fort Worth Lake, Florida, Camacho told his kids to come into the house to open early Christmas presents. But there were no presents – just Camacho, a series of dead bolts, and a crapload of kerosene. Camacho died during the fire; his 10-year-old son Nelson and 8-year-old daughter Crystal succumbed to their injuries in the ensuing days. Inside of the house, investigators found empty gas canisters, as well as full containers of gasoline configured like Molotov cocktails.
What’s galling is that there were numerous signs the train wreck that was Tony Camacho was about to derail. Outside of the threats reported by Carter in her divorce proceedings, a witness came forward after the fire and reported that, days earlier, Camacho threatened to kill Carter. Too little, too late.
Camacho should obviously have never had access to his kids given his history. Mom is no doubt raking herself over the coals for letting Camacho see his children that one last time. Amazingly, though, not everybody agrees. One anonymous father’s rights commentor on a Sun-Sentinel article about the case declares:
Another tragedy caused by faulty “custody” laws. Default custody should be 50-50. Take away the aggravation, game playing and stress and these incidents will diminish in quick fashion.
Um. Yeah. Something tells me that the last thing society needed was for the likes of bastards like Tony Camacho to spend MORE time around kids. If anything, this is evidence that “50/50 by default” is a horrible notion that will take away the discretion of the courts and keep kids trapped in abusive homes. Good parents don’t torch their children, regardless of how “stressed out” they are.
This is also a great blog post from 2008. Notice how the court-appointed psychologist also contributed to these murders through his inane and incompetent evaluation of the killer father.
Doctor Saw Paranoia Before Fire
December 1, 2008 — batteredmomslosecustody
I do believe that this doctor understates the risks of domestic violence. Not only is he negligent about protecting victims of family abuse, but this doctor also accuses domestic violence victims of parental alienation, but tries to disguise the accusations as “covert” or “subtle” alienation. His evaluations have resulted in the deaths of these two children, and have resulted in abused mothers and children being re-victimized in court. Phil Heller has a discipline on his record for improper testing per FL Licensing Board, copy of complaint available at psychsearch.net
Doctor Saw Paranoia Before Fire
BYLINE: DON JORDAN, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
DATE: December 29, 2006
PUBLICATION: Palm Beach Post, The (FL)EDITION: CSECTION: A SECTIONPAGE: 1AMEMO: Ran all editions.
A man who killed himself and his two children when he set his suburban Lake Worth home ablaze last week seemed to be “a good parent” but had “extreme feelings of paranoia,” said a psychologist who evaluated Tony Camacho and his family in April. Phil Heller, a Boca Raton child psychologist with expertise in clinical and forensic psychology, was appointed by the courts to conduct a series of interviews and psychological tests with each member of the family – Camacho, 39; his ex-wife, Jennie Carter, 37; and their children, Nelson, 10, and Crystal, 8 – to determine the best custody arrangement in the couple’s impending divorce.
What he found in Camacho was a man who obsessively craved attention, was racked by stress and failed to compromise.”He thought of the world as a very threatening place,” Heller said Thursday. “He would only deal with rationality, not with his feelings.” The April interviews offered a glimpse into the family’s home life, where Camacho was the more active parent while Carter worked long hours. According to court statements, Carter worked as a technician. Camacho was self-employed and worked from home for Adjustable Comfort, which repairs adjustable beds, earning $33,000 a year. Carter could not be reached for comment.
“Camacho was a good parent,” Heller said. “The kids were never harmed. He took the children to doctor’s appointments.” But when Heller asked the children, both said they would rather live with Carter. Nelson wanted to take care of his hardworking mom and be the man of the house. Crystal yearned for a female bond. Camacho resented the children’s love for their mother, Heller said.”They had a fondness for her that Tony would obscure,” he said. “Tony couldn’t handle it.” Camacho constantly denigrated Carter in front of the children, and when Heller proposed joint custody on the condition that Camacho change his behavior, Camacho wasn’t interested, Heller said. He wanted only full custody.
Heller recommended that the courts grant Carter custody.
That’s when the doctor said he saw the full extent of Camacho’s obsessive behavior.”He would not stop calling me,” Heller said. “He always had something new to tell me. Nobody called obsessively like him.” Camacho’s emotional problems may have stemmed from a troubled childhood, Heller said. His father abandoned the family after divorcing his mother when he was 5. He grew up in poverty and was forced to quit high school and work to support his family, Heller said.”He really had lifted himself up by his bootstraps,” Heller said.
Heller never changed his recommendation, and on Dec. 13, the courts finalized the divorce. Camacho was ordered to leave the house on Fairview Street, west of Lake Worth , by Jan. 12 so Carter could move back with her children. She had been living nearby at her parents’ home in Lake Worth .Camacho set the house on fire eight days after the ruling, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office officials said. He died of smoke inhalation after stabbing Crystal in the back, severing her spine and leaving her paralyzed as the flames engulfed their home, according to the sheriff’s office.The county medical examiner has not determined whether she died from the wounds or from smoke inhalation. Nelson died of smoke inhalation the next day.
Heller said there may have been signs that Camacho could be violent – he was very stressed, he was obsessive, Carter alleged he had been abusive – but said the man took care of his children.”I’m still going through my mind wondering why I didn’t think he would kill,” Heller said.
Phil Heller: ‘I’m still going through my mind wondering why I didn’t think he would kill.’
This doctor specializes in selling his bogus theories and makes his money just by testifying. This acting job of selling phony theories in order to get a desired outcome in court needs to be exposed for the fraud that it is. In Heller and Brodsky’s article “Addressing the Perfect Phantom on the Witness Stand” these PhD’s state that juries [judges too] give more weight to clinical psychological testimony rather than actuarial data. The reality is though, that the actuarial data would really be of more value as it is at least based on history and reality whereas the testimony of an expert is speculative and subjective. These people specialize in how to “make up” testimony that can be found believable. It doesn’t matter what the facts or evidence are, they just make things up to make money. This fraud is what is allowing these charlatans to get paid for excusing away abuse.
It is very valuable to defense attorneys to hire these experts in making up excuses to help get their clients off on charges or to get lighter sentences. This benefits criminals, but what about the victims? In these child custody hearings, the victims are still alive at the time of evaluation. Unfortunately in the case above, this lack of concern for death threats led to the deaths of two children. Doctor Heller can claim that there was only violence and threats against the mother, but the reality is that based on actuarial statistics (and common sense) that this DOES increase the likelihood of violence against the children. Statistics show that batterers are more than twice as likely to abuse their children than non-batterers. And thinking that only the mother was in danger of being killed, is not an excuse. Death threats indicate a dangerous person. Until Dr. Heller and all the other “Abuse-Excuse” doctors (and the lawyers who conspire with them) get run out of court, no abuse victims will be safe in family court.
At least when these charlatans testify in murder cases the re-victimized victim is already dead. As one person stated about Heller’s evaluations of battered moms, he may as well be killing the victims himself. And the children who don’t actually get killed by the abuser, just wish they were never born having to live under the circumstances that these doctors create for them.