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Mother, others to discuss domestic violence at Baltimore community forum

Lisa Spicknall husband had abused her for years before she finally left him. In 1999, he killed their two children, Destiny and Richie. Now she is a domestic violence victims advocate.

Sixteen years ago, Lisa Spicknall was thrust into the spotlight for the worst of reasons.

Her 2- and 3-year-old children, Richie and Destiny, were killed in a horrific murder case that drew attention across the country. Their father, Richard Spicknall, would eventually plead guilty to killing them.

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Despite the crushing pain of her children's deaths, Spicknall, then 24, decided she would speak out about domestic violence.

"It was a choice," Spicknall said. "It was either 'I'm going to lay down and die' or 'I'm going to get up and fight.'"

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In the time since her children's deaths, Spicknall has spoken with national news outlets such as the news show "Primetime" and People magazine. She has attended crime victims' vigils, news conferences and court hearings.

On Saturday, Spicknall is scheduled to be the guest speaker at the Baltimore state's attorney's office Community Day in Court, which begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse. The forum is meant to connect residents with resources and dispel misconceptions about domestic violence.

"Hardly anybody has a dry eye after hearing her," said Detective Tim Utzig, a domestic violence officer for Anne Arundel County, where Spicknall regularly speaks to police recruits as part of their training.

Spicknall's story helps shed light on the dynamics of abuse, Utzig said.

"There's no question that she won't answer," he said.

The Spicknall toddlers, strapped into their car seats, were found shot in a Jeep near an Eastern Shore fishing pier. Lisa and Richard Spicknall were separated, and Richard Spicknall had told his estranged wife that he was taking the children on a trip to Ocean City.

Richard Spicknall was convicted of first-degree murder in Richie and Destiny's deaths. He pleaded guilty shortly after prosecutors rested their case during his trial; in exchange, the state agreed not to seek the death penalty.

The court proceedings attracted so much interest that the trial was moved from Talbot County to Kent County.

Richard Spicknall was killed in prison in 2006.

Lisa Spicknall, 41, has remarried and has two boys, ages 10 and 12. Now the state director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, she also counsels survivors of abuse.

Victims of abuse often "don't see a future because they've been beaten down so much that they can't really see a way out," said Spicknall, who lives in Anne Arundel County.

"For every case that I have a cooperative victim, there could be two more cases that I have a victim who is either reluctant or unwilling to cooperate in the prosecution," said Michele Lambert, an assistant state's attorney who will speak about the challenges of trying such cases.

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Lambert said many people have the misconception that victims can drop charges once they are brought.

"If we allowed that, domestic violence generally wouldn't be prosecuted," she said. "People need to understand that it is a crime."

Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said she hopes Spicknall's story will inspire others to seek help and report domestic violence "sooner rather than later."

"Lisa's story is shocking, heartbreaking and all too often the tragic end-result of a vicious cycle perpetuated by a code of silence," Mosby said in a statement.

Spicknall met her future husband Richard as a teenager, when she was working at a men's clothing store at Marley Station mall. They began dating when she was 16.

"As teenagers, we seemed like the perfect couple," Spicknall said.

But within a year, the relationship became abusive, she said. It began with controlling behavior. He tried to isolate her from family and friends, "telling me they weren't good for me."

Over the years, the abuse continued. He broke her arm and her nose, she said.

Spicknall said she finds some comfort in knowing she has shared memories of her children with the countless people who have heard her story.

"These are people who would never know them unless I'm there to tell their story," she said.

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