I've got a good story this week for my fellow true crime junkies.
Well, it's actually not a "good" story, but it's certainly an interesting one. Our police reporter pointed out to me this week that Court TV is featuring the trial of an Iowa woman who is charged with murdering her husband, who was reportedly known around town for abusing his wife. Sadly, there's nothing new about that story we've all heard it before. But the twist on this one is that the woman, Dixie Shanahan, allegedly kept her husband's death a secret for a whole year, living in her house with his corpse.
But after researching the story, I discovered that Dixie didn't tell her friends and neighbors that her husband was at home. She told them that he'd left her when he found out she was pregnant with their second child, and apparently the people of Defiance, population 346, had no trouble believing that. Apparently Dixie's husband had been convicted twice for domestic violence, and the police photos at courttv.com show Dixie with black eyes and bruises that will make anybody cringe in disbelief.
She was pregnant at the time of her husband's death and has reportedly admitted to shooting him, but says it was in self-defense. If convicted she could face life in prison without parole.
Another interesting component of this case is the fact that once Dixie Shanahan was arrested for her husband's murder, her neighbors rallied around her, holding bake sales and fundraisers to post her $15,000 bail.
Far be it from me to judge whether Dixie was justified in shooting her husband because of the spousal abuse she reportedly endured. Domestic violence is an ugly, horrible thing, and it's not fair for those who haven't been in a specific situation to say what the victim should have done. It's difficult to stand up to a person of whom you are afraid, and the victim is often brainwashed into thinking she loves her abuser despite his violent tendencies.
It is, however, interesting to me that even on the occasions when Dixie reported her husband's abuse, she later wrote letters to a judge asking for leniency. She took him back into her home and let him father her two children. Not very many people really know what happened on that day that her husband was shot in the head, but you have to wonder how one gets to that breaking point.
If anyone is reading this column and is in an abusive relationship, please, please don't let it go this far. Don't wait until someone is dead. The Flint Circuit Council on Family Violence's 24-hour crisis line phone number is (770) 954-9229. They will help you leave town and find a job. They will protect you from your abuser. They have a legal advocate to assist in court matters. They genuinely care about your well-being.
Those who have a friend who may be in an abusive situation should not sit idly by and let this continue. Encourage your friend and let her know there is help available. Do it before it's too late.
April Avison is the city editor of the Daily Herald. Her column appears on Mondays. She can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .