Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

When love turns violent…

This is a story that does not fit the mold of what many interpret as a crime within the home. There were no on-going incidents, no build-up to the day that would change a woman’s life forever. The attack occurred without the many signs society has assigned to victims of domestic violence.
Things seemed to be going fine for Tammy, a young widow, and her new husband of two years. Her young daughters and new stepson were adjusting to the newly combined family fairly well. The couple had dated for several years before they tied the knot and both seemed pretty content in their second chance at happiness. That was until the day in February of 2005 when her husband nearly killed her.

“There were just no signs, no hints that he would ever be violent,” Tammy explained. What happened had not followed a series of red flag events. “The abuse was subtle,” she recalled. Yes, the new man in her life manipulated her and sometimes played mind games, but nothing had indicated real danger. There was only one serious incident in their marriage, the year before, when, in bed, they argued and he put his hands on her throat. He then pulled back and said how sorry he was and they talked about it and reasoned that they would always talk things out when angry.

Tammy did not grow up here, but moved to the Newark area with her first husband, who died when their oldest girl was just 9 years old.

“I knew nothing of his (her second husband’s) high school or growing up years, but felt that after knowing him for 2-1/2 years, I had made an informed and right decision. He did not drink or do drugs, he had friends, and a good job, and he was fun.”

They were married during the ice storm in 2003 and that, perhaps, was a foreshadowing of things to come.

In late 2003, her husband began to get moody and depressed. He lost his good job and the couple had a brand new house and mortgage, with three kids to support.

One day in February 2005, a few days after her 40th birthday, Tammy received a call at work (she was working as a nurse at a local school) from her oldest daughter. The girl, now 18, was crying, clearly upset and told her mom she had a hard time getting her vehicle up the slippery, muddy hill to their house. Being late for work, her daughter had asked her step-dad for help, but he had refused. When she finally got the car up the hill, she ran up to change for work. Only one problem…she didn’t put her shoes in the drawer (one of many house rules) and her stepfather proceeded to throw his muddy boots on her white sneakers while she changed.

Later that same day, Tammy says she called home before she left work to ask if the girls were home yet, and tried to get a sense of what her husband’s mood was. When she arrived home, he met her in the garage and asked if she would drive with him to pick up his son from sports practice. “He began yelling at me… “You lied to knew the girls were home when you called..,” he shouted. “To avoid a confrontation, which I hate, I clammed up,” said Tammy.

Later, when they returned home, Tammy changed and began dinner. She suggested that her daughter and husband work things out. “I told them I loved them both, and they were old enough to work it out.”
For some reason, she admitted, she stood at the bottom of the stairs and listened to the conversation. She heard him twisting things around, and she called up to him, saying “If you’re going to tell the story…tell it right.”

Tammy then proceeded to the basement to check on her dogs outside and let them in. From behind her, she heard stomping on the steps, and the dog gate at the bottom of the stairs crashing down. “I heard my husband yelling, time passed, I don’t remember much, except that something warm and wet was on my face and I grabbed a sheet to wipe my face. I looked down and saw blood and thought,

“I don’t want my kids to see me like this.”

That is the last thing Tammy remembers. She was told later that her stepson heard her calling “Someone help me”. Later, she was told her step-son came down into the basement and saw her lying in a pool of blood on floor with his dad standing over her.

The children called 911. Someone helped Tammy into their truck and allowed her husband to drive her to the hospital before police arrived. Still at home, her step-son called his own mother, and the police arrived. No one was able to determine to which hospital Tammy had been taken. It was later believed the husband had perhaps driven around for a time before taking Tammy to Clifton Springs Hospital.

Tammy’s daughters later admitted that they thought her step-father had driven off with her to “finish the job”. It was learned that he had called her parents to say he was taking her to Clifton Springs Hospital.
“I don’t remember the ride or much about my surroundings. It was hard to breathe, I was cold, it was dark and I could not really see,” remembered Tammy. Hearing police voices at the hospital, Tammy suddenly felt safe. An officer she knew, would later tell her that the only way he recognized the severely beaten woman was from the back of her head. The officer’s wife often cut Tammy’s hair.

Due to the severity of her injuries, Tammy was taken to Strong Memorial Hospital. Her nose was totally gone, her orbital bone crushed, her cheekbone was rotated, jaw broken and several teeth were missing.

After several days, with her jaw wired shut, some temporary overall maintenance to her face was attempted. Tammy was sent home to stay with her sister to heal, until the swelling would allow more reconstructive work to be done.

During one of the 8 hours surgeries Tammy would endure, the doctor felt that the surgery was so invasive, she was put in a 6-day drug-induced coma. “I felt so robbed of 6 days of my life and my children’s lives.” When she did finally come home, Tammy’s sister gave her a little book with a piece of paper detailing everything that happened during those 6 days,” remembered Tammy, shedding tears of that period of her life.

An Order of Protection for herself, her daughters, and his son were issued, and Roy “Newt” Johncox was put in jail for 2nd Degree Assault. Tammy recalls that within hours Johncox had bailed himself out, using the couple’s joint checking account.

Weeks after the initial attack, Newt was re-arrested for the more serious First Degree Assault, his bail was set at $100,000. With a Grand Jury and possible trial looming, he pled guilty. Newt was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Just two weeks into his incarceration, he killed himself.

Seven and a half years have passed, Tammy’s daughters are grown and in their 20’s. She formed a friendship with her husband’s first wife and son, who in turn, connected her with Wayne County Victim Resource Center (VRC), who helped with legal matters, counseling and many other kindnesses. “I am blessed to have them (VCR) all in my life,” Tammy chimed.

Tammy Baker just underwent her 16th reconstructive surgery with more to come. One of the hardest things for her has been looking in the mirror, and seeing someone she no longer recognizes. “I would cry and my wonderful girls would say “Stop, Mom, you are beautiful, it’s what’s on the inside that really matters and that hasn’t changed,” Tammy said tearing up.
“I was a pediatric nurse in a large office for many years and I loved my little kiddies — and something as basic as getting groceries — seeing people who knew me for years not recognize who I was – was so devastating.”
Family and friends have rallied around her and early on put together a benefit for her and her children. She is now committed to bringing awareness to the public about Domestic Violence.

Tammy is open to speaking to groups, especially teenagers. She has recently written herself a mission statement: “My mission is to bring awareness to all people regarding Domestic Violence; to educate through early intervention how to identify Domestic Violence; to inform and empower current victims to seek the help that is available to them through local Domestic Violence Centers, Law Enforcement and other service organizations; to encourage members of the community to provide the needed support system for the victims and their children.”

The Victim Resource Center has brochures and hand outs about red flags for Domestic Abuse, and advice on how to help a friend who you may suspect is in a dangerous relationship.

Extreme jealousy and possessiveness are not signs of love. They are signs of control and they can lead to emotional and physical abuse…even death. If you or someone you know is being abused, call 1-800-942-6906, or call the Wayne County Victim Resource Center at 315-331-1171.