Tiffany Gates should have enjoyed Turkey and stuffing last Thursday. She should have said grace before her meal and listed some of the things for which she was thankful. Instead she spent her 33rd thanksgiving in the morgue, a victim of violence at the hands of her ex-boyfriend and a justice system that failed her.
Ms. Gates was felled by grotesquely common violence – 3 women are killed every day by men who profess to love them. If the meat of the story was only “woman killed by ex,” then it would still be notable but not extraordinary. Ms. Gates availed herself of every protection our judicial system affords. She had broken the cycle of the abused returning to the perverse comfort of the abuser. She was poised to be a success story.
Ridick Ridley had other plans. At just 31 years old, he boasts an impressive thirteen year long criminal record of abusing woman. Since offenses committed as a juvenile are almost always sealed, anyone want to set the odds that Ridley has abused women for even longer than the stretch we know?
Ridley and Ms. Gates dated for about two years before she ended it in August after several incidents requiring police involvement. On the thirteenth of that month, Ridley was arrested after a police stand-off and charged with several counts including arson for setting Ms. Gates’ apartment ablaze. He was jailed without bond until his October trial. After pleading guilty, Gates was sentenced to serve his time at a Halfway House despite his history of violence, recent restraining orders, threats to his ex-girlfriend’s life, the gravity of the charges, and common logic.
Less than three weeks after his sentencing Ridley escaped – the police’s word; but one doesn’t so much escape from a halfway house as they decide not to return. On Friday 21 November, Ridley returned to Ms. Gates’ home. He banged on her door long enough for her to call 911, a couple of family members, and the U.S. Marshalls who were just yards from her door on a stakeout to find the escaped Ridley. For reasons I hope they will be called to explain to someone, the Marshalls decided to wait for back-up from DC Police before entering the apartment just before 2am that morning to find that Tiffany Gates had become the first woman to die that day because a man loved her to death.
Compared to Ms. Gates, Tina Dean was lucky but the similarities in their stories, both reported in last Tuesday’s Washington Post, astounded me. Ms. Dean had also been in an abusive relationship. She had also broken the cycle. She had also sought and received multiple restraining orders. She had also been failed by a judicial system that clearly does not think violence against women is a problem.
Ms. Dean’s assailant was her ex, Jeremiah Watson. Watson while imprisoned on a burglary charge made repeated written and telephone threats to Ms. Dean. Somehow, Watson still qualified for probationary release and began walking freely on 14 November. He was arrested a mere week later for violating Ms. Dean’s order of protection against him. The day after his arrest Watson was released on personal recognizance. He was on probation from the burglary charge, violated an OOP and yet St. Mary’s County District Court Judge John F. Slade lets him walk.
Watson waited just a few days before going to Ms. Dean’s home, murdering her current boyfriend, and save for a misfiring gun would have murdered her too. He had to settle for critical injuries inflicted with a shovel.
How many more women must die before all branches of our government and all of our societal institutions collectively resolve to declare war on this epidemic?
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