Local shelter remembers lives lost

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
Editor's Note: October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. This is the sixth story in a series on domestic violence.
KINGSPORT -- As a tribute to men, women and children who have died across the state of Tennessee as a result of domestic violence, one local shelter has created a living memorial to make sure they are not forgotten.
Employees of Safe House domestic violence shelter in Kingsport gathered with local officials, representatives of Frontier Health, law enforcement officers and citizens in a memorial service held at noon on Monday.
Those who attended heard law enforcement officers describe what it is like to respond to domestic violence calls. Employees of the shelter also spoke about the work they do, and a local minister discussed work his church is doing through prayer to help combat violence.
"We are always able to hear about crime that happens across the country but when it happens here it is an awakening," Dr. Rev. Kenneth Calvert, of Shiloh Baptist Church, said to those in attendance, adding that individuals in the community have a responsibility to help prevent domestic violence.
Tina Johnson, a child advocate at Safe House, explained to the crowd that a heart would be placed on the memorial tree representing an individual who died due to domestic violence. "We feel it is important to remember the victims who have lost their lives due to domestic violence," Johnson said. "In a few moments we will be placing a heart with a victim's name who had died as a result of domestic violence, but along with their name we feel it is important to remember some of the violent, tragic deaths that these victims experienced at the hands of a loved one."
Johnson read a few names from the list of victims who will be memorialized on the tree. Among them were Dianne Tillery, age 27, who was shot and killed in her bed while she slept. Her husband also shot and killed the couple's two children, Christie, age 7, and Clay, age 6. The children were also honored with a heart on the tree.
Cherritta Norman, age 30, of Memphis, was stabbed to death by her husband on their second anniversary.
Charlie Fultz, age 79, had his throat slit with a pocket knife by his 32-year-old grandson who then attempted to kill neighbors who tried to aid Fultz.
Regina Taylor, age 22, of Blountville, died of injuries she sustained after being struck by her boyfriend's car while she was trying to flee him after he had repeatedly beaten and raped her.
Stacy Williams, age 32, of Memphis, was shot and killed by her husband, who also shot and killed a sheriff's deputy and two firefighters who had responded to the scene to attempt to save Williams.
"You may not be a domestic violence victim but you can still be hurt by violence when you try to intervene and help," Johnson said of the sheriff's deputy and firefighters who lost their lives.
Following the speakers, the crowd proceeded from the gazebo at Glen Bruce Park along Broad Street to Church Circle where they placed hearts bearing the names of domestic violence victims on a tree which sits in a flower garden in the middle of the circle.
A sign stands among the flowers letting all who pass by know that each heart on the tree represents a life which was taken as a result of domestic violence.
This marks the fifth year that Safe House has sponsored the memorial tree, according to Program Director Carole Long. "We just decided that we needed to do it to increase the awareness of domestic violence. We don't want to scare our families but maybe this will give them the courage to leave. We can show a woman one of the hearts and say, 'This may be you if you go back.'"
All of the names were those of Tennessee residents, some of whom are from Northeast Tennessee. "We also put some blank (hearts) up for the people we didn't have names for," Long said.
Tennessee ranks fifth in the nation for the number of women murdered by men. Approximately 62 percent of the women murdered in the state were killed by their intimate partner, according to information from the TCADSV, which is higher than the national average of 42 percent.
In fiscal year 1999-2000 in Tennessee, 100 people were murdered by their intimate partner, parent, sibling, children or other relative, according to a report from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.