In her neat handwriting, Nancy Susan Kreamer described in a court document dated Sept. 8 how her live-in boyfriend assaulted her: "He ... threw me on the floor then choked me to unconsciousness."
But one week later, the 44-year-old Millersville woman returned to District Court in Glen Burnie and asked that a peace order against Robert Charles Antonelli be dismissed.
"There's no point," Kreamer told the civil advocate at the courthouse.
"There is a point," Mary-Pat Cook, a civil advocate for the county's YWCA, recalled responding. She said she gave Kreamer the usual speech, telling her that statistics show the violence will escalate.
Monday morning, Kreamer, a deli counter worker at Shoppers Food Warehouse for more than a decade, was found strangled in her Millersville apartment. Antonelli, 38, has been charged with first-degree murder in the killing.
Domestic-violence activists describe Kreamer's case as a "classic example" of the cycle of violence, pointing out that even though the court system and victims advocates intervened, she allowed Antonelli to continue living with her - even bailing him out of jail while he was awaiting trial on charges that he had assaulted her in September.
Although the region has numerous domestic-violence intervention programs - from the House of Ruth in Baltimore to the YWCA in Anne Arundel County - the decision to leave a dangerous situation ultimately rests with the person being abused, court officials and domestic-violence activists agree.
"People are entitled to make choices about how they lead their lives," said Maureen Gillmer, director of Victim-Witness Services for the Anne Arundel County state's attorney's office. "All we can do is give them information, give them support and always be there."
It takes women an average of seven to nine attempts before they finally leave their abuser, said Janis Harvey, chief executive officer of the YWCA of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County.
In Kreamer's case, co-workers, victims' advocates and her sister all tried to persuade her to kick Antonelli out of her apartment.
She had moved to the large, one-bedroom apartment on Jeffrey Road while she was divorcing her husband, David Kreamer, last summer. Soon after, the unemployed Antonelli moved in, said Nancy Kreamer's sister Sharon Dotson.
Kreamer had begun pursuing a way out of her short relationship with Antonelli, but her progress as quickly came undone, according to court documents and relatives.
She called 911 after the incident in September. She filed for a peace order, and her boyfriend was arrested and taken first to a psychiatric ward and later to the county detention center. He was charged with first- and second-degree assault, according to court documents.
Then she asked that the peace order be dismissed, and she posted a $1,000 bond for Antonelli and asked him to move back in with her. In court, she asked that the judge make her boyfriend seek treatment - not sentence him to more jail time.
"Our philosophy is simple: We prosecute whenever we can in domestic-violence cases," said Anne Arundel County State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee. "We believe that is the only way to try and stop the violence from happening again."
Anne Arundel prosecutors dropped the first-degree assault charge, saying they could not prove intent because he'd been drinking, and Circuit Judge Joseph P. Manck sentenced Antonelli on Jan. 8 to a supervised three-year probation.
He was given time served for the 58 days he spent at the Jennifer Road Detention Center near Annapolis and ordered to participate in alcohol and domestic-violence programs.
Weathersbee said he generally finds Circuit Court judges to be "too lenient," but Manck defended his decision last week, saying that Kreamer wanted Antonelli to get help, "and that's what we tried to do."
Antonelli attended orientation for domestic-violence counseling at the YWCA, but he then canceled two scheduled meetings with a counselor, YWCA employees said. People under court order to participate in counseling can cancel up to three times, Harvey said.
Antonelli continued living at the Millersville apartment. Dotson moved in with the pair in December, she said.
Dotson said she never saw Antonelli hurt her sister but that she continually urged her to make him leave.
"She said it was too cold. ... She said he would probably violate probation with his drinking and get sent back to jail anyway," Dotson said. "She did everything for him. She was nice to him, like she was to everybody."
Last fiscal year, 38 women, 19 men and 18 children were killed as a result of domestic violence, according to the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence.
The number of nonfatal domestic violence incidents is difficult to track, but the 2002 Maryland Uniform Crime Report estimates there were about 19,000 domestic-violence-related crimes committed in that year, the most recent for which statistics are available.
Judy Clancy, executive director of the Domestic Violence Center of Howard County, said her 25-year-old facility saw a 31 percent increase - to nearly 2,000 - in the number of people they assisted between fiscal year 2002 and fiscal year 2003, which ended June 30.
Monday evening in Annapolis, those who died last year at the hands of a domestic abuser will be remembered in a memorial service sponsored by the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence.
The 16th annual event will be from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the joint hearing room of the Legislative Services Building.
Dotson, whose four children called Kreamer "Aunt Nan-Nan," said she hopes other women will see a lesson in her only sister's death.
"They're going to end up like her if they don't get away," she said, sitting in her sister's apartment yesterday. "If he's hitting you and he's telling you that he loves you, that's not right. A true man doesn't hit his love."
Victims of domestic violence may call one of several 24-hour hotlines in the Baltimore area. Information on shelters, legal services and counseling is available.
Anne Arundel County : (410) 222-6800
Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Carroll County: (410) 828-6390
Harford County: (410) 836-8430
Howard County: (410) 997-2272