OKLAHOMA CITY – A case involving an Oklahoma City man killed two days after he was sentenced to probation for his second domestic abuse conviction in six months highlights a common struggle for authorities: how to stop abusers when victims won't testify, a prosecutor and anti-violence advocates say.
The Oklahoma County district attorney's office is reviewing the case to decide whether to file charges against the man's wife. Christina Maria Mason, 33, told police she fatally shot her husband, Boyd Quisenberry, 39 when he attacked her with a knife Nov. 29. Detectives interviewed Mason but did not arrest her.
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater will determine whether Mason should face charges. He could decide the shooting was self-defense. Oklahoma City police are investigating the shooting and will provide a report to Prater's office, a process that Sgt. Gary Knight said can take up to three weeks.
Prater said Mason refused to testify about the domestic abuse, which forced a plea bargain for Quisenberry that resulted in probation as punishment rather than jail time. Prater and advocates for abuse victims say victims have many complicated reasons for refusing to appear in a courtroom, but that can lead to attackers going free — and back home to those they hurt.
Quisenberry was given a three-year suspended sentence Nov. 27 after pleading guilty to domestic abuse assault and battery and violating a protective order. Earlier this year, he received a three-year suspended sentence after pleading guilty to domestic abuse by strangulation and 90 days in county jail on a charge of interfering with an emergency telephone call.
Mason did not show up to testify in either case, Prater said, and prosecutors risked not getting a conviction at all without her testimony.
"She refused to cooperate and we're not able to get her to court," Prater said. "We basically had to agree to probation."
A working phone number for Mason could not be found, and she could not be reached for comment this story.
But Ruth Glenn, executive director of the Denver-based National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said it's not uncommon for abuse victims to avoid court. She estimates up to 75 percent do not show up. Many fear future retribution if they testify against their abuser, she said.
"It's not that they don't want the violence to stop. They (do) want the violence to stop, but the fear of future violence is sometimes more frightening," Glenn said.
Candida Manion, executive director of the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, agreed with Glenn that fear is cited as a primary factor for victims not to testify.
"They're intimidated by the perpetrator. ... They (fear they) will feel his wrath again," Manion said.
An Oklahoma woman who said she survived several years of abuse at the hands of her now ex-husband said domestic violence victims also have a sense of shame and worthlessness. Misty Martin-Sullins testified at her then-husband's preliminary hearing before he pleaded no contest to charges in the case. He also reached a plea deal with prosecutors.
"If you haven't been the victim ... then you don't know what it's like to stand up in a courtroom and have your attacker staring at you, grinning from ear to ear," Martin-Sullins said.
Glenn said she knows of no database that tracks the number of victims who kill their abusers, but both she and Prater said it is uncommon.
"It does happen, but it is very rare that the victim will, quote-unquote, 'turn the tables'" Glenn said.
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