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Advocates say young mother's murder raises questions about domestic violence protections

Abusive BehaviorShootingsHomicideDomestic ViolenceSuicideJustice System

Victoria Vernetta Glover had taken the available legal steps to protect herself from an allegedly abusive husband but was killed nonetheless.

Police say Cory Bowman shot his estranged wife this week outside her Parkville home as she was putting her 3-year-old son in a car. In recent months, she had filed for divorce, citing cruelty as grounds, obtained a protective order and pressed assault charges on which Bowman was out on bail.

He was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a Baltimore apartment a day after her killing, police confirmed Thursday.

Advocates for domestic-violence victims are calling the apparent murder-suicide yet another reminder that, despite recent victories, their fight to improve Maryland's handling of domestic-abuse cases isn't finished. Some are calling for alleged abusers to be required to wear GPS devices while out on bail.

"In light of this incident, I'm sure we will have a renewed discussion of what else could anyone have done for her, and that may bring to light a proposal that we haven't addressed before legislatively," said Laure Ruth, legal director of the Women's Law Center of Maryland. "These are always moments to reflect."

"We're looking at everything we can to make sure that those situations in particular can be avoided, those high-risk situations," said Michaele Cohen, executive director of the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence.

The two organizations are scheduled to meet Friday to discuss shared goals for the coming legislative session in Annapolis, Ruth said, and Glover's killing will be a major topic of conversation.

Police had charged Bowman with Glover's murder. Officers tracked him late Wednesday to a Baltimore apartment owned by an acquaintance and found him dead there from a self-inflicted gunshot in an upstairs bathroom. Baltimore County police had obtained a warrant to search that apartment as part of their murder investigation.

Police said Thursday that they have linked the shotgun used to kill Glover to Bowman and "learned that he made statements after the murder confessing to the crime." Bowman used the same shotgun to kill himself, police said.

Eight domestic homicides have occurred in Baltimore this year, up from four in the same time period last year, according to police. The cases highlight the complexities and difficulties in protecting women from husbands or significant others intent on harming them, advocates said.

In February, Katie Hadel, 33, was stabbed to death in her Garrison apartment. Police charged Jeffrey Matthew Shiflett, who had just been released from prison and had been in a brief relationship years ago with Hadel. Her family said he had threatened her for years, and Hadel had a peace order against him. Shiflett has pleaded not guilty in the killing.

In January, Melissa Davis, 44, was fatally stabbed in her Baltimore apartment. Police charged her husband, Daren Ruffin, with the killing. He had been released from jail on a charge of assaulting her just hours before, and had been arrested six times in as many months on charges that he had hurt her. Ruffin has pleaded not guilty in the killing.

Advocates point out that Glover had already pursued many, if not all, of the legal protections available to her in Maryland. She was being represented by the House of Ruth, which creates safety plans and assesses dangers in the lives of all of its clients.

"For the vast majority of women who receive protective orders, it is effective, it is enough to keep the abuser away," said Sandi Timmins, the executive director of House of Ruth. "It's unfortunate that there are situations where nothing now will keep the abuser away."

Glover, a 28-year-old administrative medical assistant and a mother of three, had been married for less than a year when the abuse allegedly started. It came to a head in February, according to police and court records, when Bowman slapped her around, threw her to the ground and threatened her with a knife as she held one of her young children in her arms.

The attack had been sparked that morning when Glover asked her 38-year-old husband to get up for church, a police report said.

"He called me a [expletive] retard," Glover told police, after she called 911 from a locked bathroom where she was hiding with her kids. The officers observed her swollen face and the bruises and fingernail marks discoloring her arms, and charged Bowman with assault and two weapons violations.

He was released on bail from the Baltimore County Detention Center in March on the condition that he not contact Glover. A short time later, Glover filed for divorce. Advocates for domestic violence victims say divorce and separations can be perilous times for women escaping violence.

"If you leave the relationship, it is the most dangerous time because he is losing power and control," said Cohen. "It's a highly lethal time."

On Tuesday morning, Glover began loading her 3-year-old son into the car sometime after 8:30 a.m. Her boss, Dr. Timothy Herlihy, said she had taken the day off to attend Bowman's trial in the February assault case, which was scheduled for 9:15 a.m.

Neither Glover nor Bowman would ever make it to the courthouse. Police said Bowman approached her and shot her with a shotgun. When police responded, she was pronounced dead at the scene. Her young son was physically unharmed, and police have said he is safe, declining to provide more details.

Police didn't name Glover as a suspect until late Wednesday. They also declined to release his mug shot from when he was arrested on the assault charge, citing an "active investigation."

His body was found late Wednesday night, and his identity was confirmed by police Thursday evening.

Advocates have been working for years to close the gaps in Maryland law that they contend contribute to dangerous situations for women. They also have been working with judges and community leaders in the state to spread awareness about domestic violence.

In October, the bail review process was changed so that judges and commissioners are informed whether an assault charge is related to domestic abuse.

"In the past, there had been no way for a judge to understand whether or not an assault on a man's record was a barroom brawl or an assault on his wife or girlfriend or intimate partner," Timmins said.

That change was a victory, but advocacy organizations have several other proposals. They want to revisit penalties for cases of attempted strangulation, a kind of assault associated with the likelihood of future violence.

They also want to ease requirements for obtaining protective orders and require that individuals released on bail in domestic abuse cases wear GPS tracking devices — a policy already in place in other states.

"That might be an additional protection to offer, because you can tell them to stay away, you can have a protective order for them to stay away, but you need them to stay away," Ruth said.

She and others stressed that women who are the victims of domestic violence should not dismiss the effectiveness of protections already in place. Many offenders do heed protective order restrictions and bail conditions. And victims can report violations of protective orders, which can be a powerful law enforcement tool, they said.

"We really don't like that message that [a protective order] is only a piece of paper," Ruth said.

Still, more can be done, she said.

Timmins, of House of Ruth, agreed. Statistics show one in four women experience some form of abuse during their life, she said, and raising awareness will be key to winning more protections for women.

"Every single one of us probably has one or more persons in their lives who has been affected by this," she said.

krector@baltsun.com

twitter.com/rectorsun

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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