By RICH FLOWERS
Athens Daily Review
and WILLIAM PATRICK
A mother of three was shot to death Saturday in Athens; her longtime boyfriend is charged with her murder.
Ashley Koonce, 27, of Athens, was reportedly trying to escape an abusive relationship with Dameon Tarrel Williams. She took her children to her mother's house Friday for safety.
Williams, 29, the father of Koonce's eldest son, allegedly followed her the next day and shot her in the front yard.
Henderson County Sheriff's Office officials said Williams surrendered to them shortly after the incident. He is being held on a $1 million bond.
Stephanie Fleharty, community educator for the Crisis Center of Anderson and Cherokee Counties, said the most dangerous time for anyone suffering domestic abuse is during their escape. The safest place to go, she said, isn't always the most familiar.
“I wouldn't recommend going to family or friends,” she said. “It's safer to go somewhere unfamiliar to the attacker.”
The local crisis center, with 24 beds, is always an option, she said. The center operates another 24-bed shelter in Jacksonville.
Knowing the red-flags of abuse, Fleharty said, could help victims avoid tragedies like Koonce's. Smaller, less-violent aggressions, such as criticizing or name-calling, or isolating someone from family, could lead to more violent outbursts.
“If you have a gut-feeling something is wrong, seek help,” she said. “It's always better to err on the side of safety.”
Friends and loved ones, Fleharty said, can play a vital role in avoiding a tragic outcome.
“Speak up; don't look the other way,” she said. “Ask simple, non-confrontational questions, and let them know you care – let them know there's help if they are in an abusive situation.”
The Crisis Center of Anderson and Cherokee Counties, 313 W. Debard St. in Palestine, runs a 24/7 hotline. It can be reached at 800-232-8519. Donations and volunteers are also accepted at that number.
The national domestic violence hotline can be reached at 800-799-7233.