Leaving abuser can be lethal, experts say
Both women killed by their partners on Oahu in the past week attempted to escape their abusive relationships, according to family members and friends.
Advocates say battered women should have an exit plan to protect themselves when trying to leave abusive partners.
"Leaving may be the most dangerous time in the relationship," said Carol Lee, executive director of the Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. "They need to work with service providers to get safety plans in place and to get assistance in leaving the relationship so that she can do that safely."
Seventy-five percent of domestic violence-related homicides occur shortly after the battered woman leaves the relationship, she added.
Janel Tupuola, 29, recently found an apartment and considered filing a restraining order after enduring months of abuse before her ex-boyfriend allegedly brutally beat her to death with a shotgun Wednesday night. They had dated for about two years.
An autopsy performed yesterday on Tupuola determined that she died of "cranial cerebral injuries due to assaultive blunt force trauma to the head," according to the Department of Medical Examiner. The manner of death was classified as a homicide.
Tupuola was a mother of five children between the ages of 1 and 13.
The accused, Alapeti Siuanu Tunoa Jr., 30, is the father of her two youngest children.
"There's no way to give words that would adequately capture what it must feel like for a child to lose their mom," said Nanci Kriedman, executive director of the Domestic Violence Action Center. "They will always be living with that hole in their hearts and in their lives."
On Wednesday one man intervened while Tupuola was being beaten, and was hurt when the attacker turned on him. The good Samaritan, in his 60s, was taken by ambulance to Castle Medical Center in stable condition.
Other witnesses said they felt frustrated because they could not do anything to stop the attack.
City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle said there is a provision in Hawaii law that allows for the protection of others who are at physical risk.
"Let's say the person who is down on the ground has a right of self-defense. And that right of self-defense could extend all the way up to lethal force. The person who is the bystander can use that same level of force if it's reasonable for that victim to use that level of force," Carlisle said.
In the second case, the abuse victim told co-workers that she was trying to leave her husband of six months, according to her co-worker Fran Kami.
Two days before Jenny Hartsock, 39, was allegedly stabbed to death Jan. 9 by her husband, Roy William Hartsock, she came to work with a black eye.
Kami said she and others offered to open their homes and to take her to a shelter to help her escape her husband. "We tried to intervene," she said.
It was not the first time co-workers noticed signs of abuse.
Last year, Hartsock, a data entry office clerk at Mercantile Freight Service, had a scar on the lower part of her leg. Her explanation to co-workers: Her husband fell and accidentally tripped and cut her leg with a knife. "I didn't believe her story," Kami said.
Star-Bulletin reporter Nelson Daranciang contributed to this report.