Local News

Despite Support from System, Woman Shot in Domestic Dispute

Posted December 9, 1997

— For victims of domestic abuse, there are several options available. Victims can get restraining orders, press charges, or go to a shelter. But, a woman in Cumberland County was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend Tuesday morning even after exercising those options.

After shooting her, he shot killed himself.

The system designed to protect domestic violence victims is certainly not perfect, but detectives say it's hard to blame the system in this case. The victim did seek help and got it, but like some others, she may have underestimated the potential danger.

It was about 6 a.m. when shots rang out in the parking lot of Purolator Products in Cumberland County. Two plant workers died in an apparent murder and suicide. Investigators say Thomas Byrd shot his ex-girlfriend Jean Hedges, then turned the gun on himself.

Until about three weeks ago, the two had lived together in a home on Windmill Drive. Neighbor Sharee Strickland says she had seen police at the home before.

Police were last called there on November 13th. Byrd was charged with assault on a female at that time. Previously, he had faced similar charges, but was never convicted.

In November,, Hedges received two court orders intended to keep him away from Hedges. She checked into a shelter, but left last week against the advice of counselors. Crystal Black directs Fayetteville's CARE domestic violence program. She says Hedges thought the court orders would protect her.

Black says victims need to watch out for abusers who just won't let go.

Victims should beware of an abuser who's giving others the impression that an ended relationship is not over. In some cases, an abuser will even say if he can't have you, than no one can. Protecting oneself from someone like that may mean making some big lifestyle changes, but that could mean the difference between life and death.

Editor's Note: The statistics on domestic violence are grim. Every 15 seconds in this country a woman is beaten. According to the US Department of Justice, a woman between the ages of 15 and 44 is more likely to be hurt in a domestic violence dispute than in any other situation. Of all women who are sent to the emergency room, 22 to 35 percent are treated for ongoing partner abuse.

Photographer:Rick Allen

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