Domestic Violence: We all play a part in solving society’s problem

by Kris Rutherford

On October 26, Roxton learned of a murder-suicide within the city limits. According to Lamar County Sheriff (LCSO) Scott Cass’ office, 20-year-old Carla Hall died of “homicidal violence.” The perpetrator, 21-year-old Tanner Robertson, then died of suicide. The couple lived in their Roxton home with at least two children. Unconfirmed reports suggest the children were in the home at the time of the incident.
While the coroner’s autopsy confirmed the results of the LCSO investigation, on the evening of October 26, the Progress received calls from several people claiming to be familiar with the case. Those calling stated that Mr. Robertson had threatened Ms. Hall on at least two occasions in the days before the murder-suicide. Two callers stated that LCSO responded to at least one report of Mr. Robertson wielding a firearm and publicly threatening Ms. Hall. While these reports are unconfirmed, one is left to wonder what, if any, action LCSO took against Mr. Robertson in the days preceding October 26. One report indicated that LCSO confiscated Mr. Robertson’s firearms — at least those he held at the time they responded. Again, the Progress cannot confirm the callers’ reports.
We all know one thing. Domestic violence is not rare. No doubt, non-fatal instances of such violence occur on a regular basis in Roxton. Victims of abuse — whether in a small town or a large city — most often remain silent. The perpetrators — male or female — may face no charges. Obviously, law enforcement cannot respond to an incident unless they receive a report. In cases of domestic violence against women, the victim often assumes responsibility for her significant other’s actions, somehow justifying it in the belief that she did something to cause her partner to become aggressive. Other times she doesn’t press charges out of fear — fear of how the aggressor may respond or other factors such as the possibility of Family Services removing children from what investigators deem a dangerous home. Regardless of the reasons, far too often we see news reports of a murder-suicide that could have been prevented.
The scenarios outlined above — including that which occurred on October 26 in Roxton — are in no way intended to blame the victim. To the contrary, domestic violence and the level such violence reaches is society’s problem. People watching after people may be the only short-term solution.
Roxton experiences its share of crime. Petty theft (maybe not so petty if one is the victim) is often reported in Roxton. Vandalism is reported on occasion, and suspicious activity is near the top of the list when combing through the LCSO dispatch records for a given period. Society accepts the need to report such crimes, even when one only finds the actions of another — sometimes an unseen person — as “suspicious.”

A cursory review of The Paris News archives suggests that Roxton has not seen a murder since 1995 when an elderly couple was involved in a murder-suicide. Not including a case or two of self-defense, the only other “modern” cases of murder occurred in the 1950s when a couple of murder-suicides took place. As for what society typically considers a “cold-blooded” murder, Roxton has not seen one since 1953 — nearly 70 years ago. That’s a pretty good record when it comes to violent crime. But Roxton was a larger town back then, and the larger the town, the greater the chance of violent incidents.
While many Roxton citizens do not hesitate to report criminal behavior, how often does LCSO receive reports of domestic violence from a concerned citizen or someone outside the home? We don’t know. But if Roxton follows the pattern found in many communities, such reports are rare. Many good neighbors might step in and ask perceived victims what types of help they need. They may even suggest that victims take a stand and report instances of domestic violence. And that is part of the problem. Too often, the reporting of this criminal behavior falls to the victim — often a female who is scared to do anything at risk of making the situation worse. She might quietly wish someone else would file a report, but she is not about to ask them to do so. Instead, she suffers the indignity of being a victim of domestic violence — and the fear that comes along with it — alone.

Everyone with knowledge of a domestic violence situation only hopes the violence doesn’t reach the tipping point. Unfortunately, the tipping point varies by the situation. No one knows, and few like to assume, that a case of physical abuse will reach the point of homicide.
If those in the know would take the matter upon themselves, lives could be saved, children could grow up with parents, and perpetrators of the crimes — and don’t be fooled, domestic violence is criminal behavior — could be prosecuted. Sure, it’s human nature to stay out of other people’s business. But when a crime is happening in front of them, responsible citizens report what they see. And just because it happens behind closed doors doesn’t justify ignoring a problem that, as we’ve learned, can quickly turn deadly.
No doubt, many questions remain to be answered about the events leading up to October 26 when two Roxtonites lives were lost to domestic violence. Some likely have more information than others about the couple and their history. We can only assume that LCSO interviewed people with such knowledge. Obviously, in this instance, neighbors did the right thing as the sheriff’s office responded to report(s) of disturbances involving the couple. Why and how a domestic argument led to murder-suicide is something Roxton — and LCSO — will likely be unable to pinpoint. Based on the news release from LCSO, the case is closed. All we can do is pray for the victims and their families, and most importantly, the children who witnessed the horrifying events.
The Roxton branch of the Commercial Bank of Texas is accepting donations to help the children in the weeks, months, and even years ahead. These youngsters face an uphill battle, one no child should ever have to experience. Many people have already donated money, clothing, and toys to the children. If you’d like to help, drop by the bank, or call 903-346-3261.