Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Common Denominator Leads to Murder

Ninety-five percent of girlfriends, wives and mothers who “suddenly” vanish, or are found murdered, share a common thread. The last person to have any contact, person of interest, or the individual with whom they were romantically attached, is involved in the crime.

It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out where a trail of blood goes, cold or not, it almost always points to the person in their life. There are a few exceptions to the rule of “who done it,” but those cases are far and few in between. As an example, when Amy Henslee vanished from her home in Hartford, MI, on January 24, 2011, the world of social media decided her husband, James Henslee, must have had something to do with her sudden disappearance. Four days later, the world was wrong, they did not have the facts. Amy Henslee was not a victim of anything but an acquaintance’s obsession resulting in a double homicide by Jr. Lee Beebe, a cousin to the husband, who also murdered his on again off again girlfriend, Tonya Howarth. Both women were discovered in a shallow grave by searcher Jamie Jones of the Missing You Foundation. This case was the exception.

Women like Stacy Peterson, IL; Renee Pernice, KS; Jacque Waller, MS; Hope Meek, OK; Patty Vaughan, TX; Susan Powell, Utah; all still missing, and the prime suspects, their husbands. They had vibrant productive lives, suddenly labeled in a crime file cabinet or drawer, opened when a lead is followed up or a family member is calling into police headquarters for updates and possible answers. The answers are easy, having more than circumstantial evidence, is the issue.

There are few experts in the field of intimate partner perpetrated crimes. The hesitancy to look at a husband or boyfriend as a suspect can depend on the size of the town, available manpower, prosecutor’s office and investigative skills, among other issues.

In my opinion, the case of Sandra Travis is not a complicated case to investigate and make an arrest. Sandra was living in a violent marriage when she disappeared July 31, 2005 from Mayfield, Kentucky, a rural area near the borders of Illinois and Tennessee. Sandra took a lot of punches over the years from her husband, Bobby Travis, probably another man who treated his wife as a piece of property, there to do his bidding, no caring for the way she felt. Someone needs to look under the trailer frome where she disappeared that evening. Maybe the Illinois State police can over ride the prosecutor who does not have much experience in obtaining a search warrant.

Another case is Renee Pagel, killed on August 5, 2006. She was a grade school teacher and a registered nurse. According to friends, Renee feared for her safety from her estranged husband. As many women say when they are married to an abusive spouse, "if something happens to me, make sure people know it was not an acciden," and yet, what I label as “Mayberry” police, have yet to arrest Michael Pagel. This is shear ignorance on the part of the investigators. Her life was silenced as she was ending the marriage; her husband’s response, in my expert opinion, was ending her life.

Sometimes it can take years for a family, even without locating the remains of their loved one to secure answers, when an arrest is finally made in a case. When Venus Stewart, (MI) vanished from her parents in April of 2010, there was only person who was responsible for her abrupt vanishing, her husband, Douglas. Earlier this year without a body, he was prosecuted and sentenced to life in prison. The family continues to search for Venus.

My hope is for everyone waiting for that unexpected phone call of a clue, tip or an arrest to remain strong and hopeful that answers in their loved ones cases will be forthcoming.

While these women's lives did not hold meaning to the person they were with, they did have great importance to many others whose faces you do not see or voices you do not hear because they are continuously searching and doing what they can to bring their loved ones home.

The month of October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Intimate partner violence occurs 365 days a year, 7 days a week. Perhaps doing something for those whom you know are in a rocky or violent relationship is a start to how you can help others.

Providing information on what you need to do if you or someone you know is in a potentially violent relationship is done with the hope of saving lives. My work in the area of intimate partner violence prevention  is a direct result of not being able to save my own mother back in 1989, killed by her police detective husband prior to committing suicide.

If you are in a relationship that has a history of violence, simply mustering up the courage to confront the person and say it is over, without the proper tools, can cost you, your life!

One of the major reasons women stay in abusive relationships is fear. They are afraid of what will happen to them and their children if they leave. Sadly, their fears are often justified; statistics show that a woman is at the greatest risk for injury when she announces her plans or leaves an abusive relationship. The book "Time's Up A Guide on How To Survive and Abusive and Stalking Relationship" is the prescription, if you will, that every person must obtain before they announce they are leaving. Below is an example from Chapter 4, one of many unique tools provided in the book. It is available on, or you can purchase via e-book or on a cd. If you have questions, the email address is:

Before you decide that you have had enough and are ending the relationship, create for yourself the "Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit" and video (shown below).

If you do nothing else, please take one important step that if something does happen to you, if you do vanish like Stacy Peterson, Vensus Stewart, Rachel Anderson, Susan Powell, Lisa Stebic, or arefoundmurdered like Monica Beresford-Redmond, Franki Jacobson, Renee Pagel, Summer Inman,Kelly Rothwell and others where the person responsible has gotten away with murder that your voice and record of the abuse will be captured and recorded. Do it for you friends, family and loved ones. Do it for your children. Do it for you!

If you have questions, the email address is:

This book doesn't merely discuss when you should leave or why you should leave, it tells you HOW you should leave. The book has step-by-step instructions how to covertly make a plan, set-up a safe escape, deal with financial issues, and the paperwork. Susan even takes you line-by-line through the process, the forms, the legal issues...she takes you by the hand, and, believe me, when you are being terrorized and you are an basket case, you don't need vague ideas, you need specific instructions. TIME'S UP can save your life and your sanity. If you need to get out, get this book before you make a mistake that could be fatal. It is money well spent.


Susan Murphy Milano is a staff member of the Institute for Relational Harm Reduction and Public Pathology Education. She is a specialist with intimate partner violence prevention strategies and high risk cases and available for personal consultations through the Institute. She is also part of the team at Management Resources Limited of New York.

Susan is the author of "Time's Up: A Guide on How to Leave and Survive Abusive and Stalking Relationships,"Moving out, Moving on, and Defending Out Lives. Susan is the host of The Susan Murphy Milano Show, "Time's Up!" . She is a regular contributor to the nationally syndicated "The Roth Show" with Dr Laurie Roth and a co-host on Crime Wire.

If you would like to schedule Susan Murphy Milano for training and interviews, please contact:ImaginePublicity PO BOX 14946 Surfside Beach, SC 29587 Phone: 843.808.0859 email-

1 comment:

Tricia said...

Thank You Susan! As a family member of a murder victim,I know how much of a difference this information can make.

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