Fatal domestic violence has become the proverbial broken record, a monody with a repetitive chorus: Violent man abuses woman, threatens woman, and finally maims or kills woman (often defying a restraining order along the way).
Reading news stories of three separate incidents over the extended weekend is simultaneously a heartwringing and head-shaking experience.
Late last Friday night, Rhonda Tacker went to her ex-husband Dennis Queen’s house near Hampton in Calhoun County to confront him about something he posted on Facebook, according to authorities. Queen shot her at least four times with a pistol, then, police say, apparently turned the gun on himself.
Donald Hux, after being released from jail last Thursday, arrived in Arkadelphia early Sunday morning, police said. He abducted his ex-wife Amy Huckabee and three children and shot her husband Sandy in the head as he slept.
Police caught up with Hux near Parkers Chapel, after he had dropped the children at his parents’ house, and they saw him shoot Amy before he engaged in a shootout with officers that left him dead as well.
Then on Monday morning, Jenny Cavender was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend Ronnie Stewart Jr. in her car outside the Bryant hospice where she worked, barely a month after she secured an order of protection against him, according to police. Stewart’s body was found next to the car, the victim of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot.
Murder-suicides are almost impossible to deter, since the assailant’s violent intent supersedes even the instinct of self-survival, so in some respects no law can prevent—through threat of penalty—that kind of crime. And while it’s not always the case, in many instances (including all of these three) murder is merely the last in a series of violent episodes. In some, such as the Hux-Huckabee crime, it’s literally prophesied by the perpetrator.
Hux’s visit to his ex-wife could hardly have been more anticipated. He wrote menacing letters from jail, police say, warning her of the “hell” he was determined to wreak on her when he got out. She filed charges against him for harassing communication, but since he was already incarcerated, he wasn’t tried.
In short, just about everybody was in possession of the knowledge that a violent criminal with malicious designs on Amy Huckabee was about to be uncaged, but nobody could prevent the crime she fell victim to. The tragic result of Hux doing pretty much what he promised to do—a dead innocent couple and three orphaned children—is a soulful dirge that ought to leave us all searching for a better way to combat the mindless, undeterrable violence visited on women by their husbands and boyfriends.
Reacting to the three fatal attacks, Gov. Mike Beebe scratched his head over possible statutory remedies, noting that the law is “pretty strict” right now. He’s right—we don’t need to stack any more penalties on domestic-violence crimes because all too often the male offender doesn’t live to suffer them.
Where the law can make a difference is in recognizing what genetic scholars have been claiming for years: The predisposition to violence is hard-wired in some people. Common sense tells us as much. The recidivism rate for violent criminals is extremely high, and a sizable percentage of violent offenders continue their violence even after they are incarcerated.
Most of us recoil at the idea of cruelty to a pet, much less a fellow human. Whatever it is inside the brain that prevents you or I from harming a kitten is missing among criminals capable of attacking and murdering innocent women and children.
Inheritable violent behavior has been confirmed through numerous twin and adoption studies. However, the science remains inexact regarding predictability. It’s impossible to know which individuals may give in to violent tendencies.
What we often do know is which individuals have already become violent. In the Hux case, for example, his armed violence was well-documented through his criminal record. But when it came to the moment of his release, he was treated no differently than a person with absolutely no violent history at all—and yet there can be all the difference in the world between the two.
GPS monitors are a great way to track the subjects of restraining orders, but the most important ones to track are those likely to be violent predators. For most nonviolent individuals, protective orders are obeyed because the penalty for disobedience (further imprisonment) is harsh enough to ensure compliance.
Violent offenders, especially when enraged emotionally, are often unfazed by words on a piece of paper. Once they settle on “getting” their wife or girlfriend, prevention becomes impossible without physical intervention.
That’s why we should require GPS monitors on anybody with a violent criminal history slapped with a restraining order, and allow a great enough distance for police to intervene if the subject violates the order.
Donald Hux may have decided he was going to die, but he never should have been allowed close enough to his ex-wife to include her in his plans.
Let’s not let this agonizing scenario play out again without doing something to prevent it.