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Domestic violence ending in death follows pattern familiar to victim advocates

Mourners attend vigil for NinCastro who was murdered outside St. Mary Catholic School St. Mary Catholic School Tuesday April 22nd

Mourners attend a vigil for Nina Castro who was murdered outside St. Mary Catholic School at St. Mary Catholic School, Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 in Griffith. | Gary Middendorf/for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: May 28, 2014 6:48AM



For advocates of victims of domestic violence, Monday’s murder-suicide in Griffith followed a script that was unfortunately all too familiar.

Nina Castro was shot to death by her husband, Remanard, in front of their two teenage children in the parking lot of St. Mary Catholic School, and he fled and soon shot himself when cornered by police at his Gary home, dying at a nearby hospital.

The couple was close to finalizing a divorce, and Nina had moved out of the Gary house months earlier with the children to live with her mother in Chicago.

Her husband was facing charges for allegedly raping and criminally confining her in November, and he had threatened to make things worse for her and their children, authorities said.

It was the second similar case of domestic violence in a month in Northwest Indiana. Renata Marquez, 37, was shot to death by her husband, Victor, before he turned the gun on himself March 29 at their apartment in the Robertsdale section of Hammond. The shootings happened in front of their 4-year-old son.

Victor Marquez has been charged with murder and remains in critical condition at a local hospital.

Statistically, victims who leave their abusers are in even greater danger, increasing their risk of being killed by 75 percent, according to research by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Normally, a no-contact (or restraining) order by a judge immediately goes into effect in domestic violence cases, but Remanard Castro’s initial court hearing was continued until May 2 and such an order had not been issued.

A protective order, which must be sought by the victim, is a civil action. The difference between the two is that a no-contact order allows police to arrest the named person if they get close to the victim, whether a threat or violence occurs, while a protective order simply allows police to order a person to leave the premises.

In 2013, Lake County had 2,034 protective orders filed and 603 no-contact orders put in place by judges.

Regardless, victim advocates say the orders are just pieces of paper and don’t protect victims from further violence.

“Most victims know that,” Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter said. “What it does do is it gives the police the ability to make an arrest. If there wasn’t a no-contact order, police ask them to leave, but even if they leave they could always come back.”

Geneva Brown, a Valparaiso University law professor and director of the law school’s Domestic Violence Clinic, said it’s a no-win situation for many victims.

“The irony is that courts and law enforcement really do want to help (victims), but most want them to end the relationship, but by ending relationship they put themselves in greater danger,” Brown said.

Brown said victims facing outright threats can request further protection under Indiana law, such as an alleged abuser being tracked via GPS.

“You have to be vocal to get an order of protection and extra monitoring, and it’s not granted in every case,” she said.

Shelters get word out

Lisa Wien, executive director of Hammond-based Haven House, said she immediately searched the files of the shelter to see if Nina Castro had ever been a client.

“Every domestic violence shelter does that because so many of our cases are potential homicides,” Wien said. “Usually, when these incidents happen, the person has never been in a shelter.”

Wien said she has noticed an uptick in the number of shelter residents, starting this winter, but she’s not sure of the cause.

“I can tell you that numbers have surged over this past holiday season, and we’re at our highest census in five years,” she said. “We don’t know what’s going on. It’s still full even though most kids back to school after spring break.”

Wien said misconceptions cause some victims not to seek help at shelters.

“We admit people 24 hours per day, and police know they can bring people here,” she said. “Domestic violence isn’t a 9 to 5 problem. In fact, a lot of it happens in the evening.”

Mary Beth Schultz, director of The Caring Place in Valparaiso, said domestic violence deaths make it all the more important to get information out to victims.

“Even if they’re not ready to leave, we can put together a safety plan,” Schultz said of victims. “By giving them a wealth of information, we can give them power and control in the situation. The main thing is getting the word out when they are in danger. They can always call our crisis line, and there is never any charge for services.”

Shelters also assist victims with legal advocates who can give them confidence to go forward with a protective order, but Schultz insisted that the final say is up to the victim.

“We don’t tell them what to do,” she said. “Victims will leave an average of seven times before they leave for good, so if we shut them down before they’re ready they may not ever come back for assistance.”

A multitude of factors are at play in decisions to leave an abusive relationship or pursue a protective order, Carter said.

“There are a lot of dynamics at play — whether they have children or in-laws, who bears the financial responsibilities,” he said.

Carter started as a clerk in the prosecutor’s office in the early 1980s and has noticed an increased willingness by victims to pursue domestic violence prosecutions.

“When I first started, it was not uncommon to dismiss a case within a week of charges being filed by the victim,” he said. “I think many victims have realized it’s in the best of interest of you and your relationship if you continue.”



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