Murder in a Small Town

Wednesday, March 23, 2011, 10:19 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

The last time I wrote a post like this, I was living in a bigger town than the one to which I recently moved. The homicide, an alleged domestic murder, happened a little over a year ago.

Different town, same sad story.

Police in Webster, Massachusetts, allege that William Freudenthal beat his wife, Jennifer, early yesterday afternoon. Reportedly, it was not the first instance of domestic violence at their home, which is about two miles from mine, but it will be the last. Mrs. Freudenthal died of her injuries.

It’s easy to consider domestic violence to be less of a threat to the community than random violent crime committed by strangers. Some guy’s beating on his wife isn’t a danger to me as I walk down the street. But what is disconcerting about domestic homicide is that there isn’t always any indication of it to the outside world. The Freudenthals had been visited by police for domestic disturbances in the past, but many other spousal or partner abuse situations occur out of sight of the neighbors and law enforcement until it’s too late. You could live next door to a potential killer and not know it until somebody is taken out in a body bag.

Domestic violence knows no barriers; it occurs across the socio-economic spectrum and among people of all ages, races, ethnicities, religions, and occupations. I should know: my aunt was battered for 16 years while living an apparently charmed existence in a large custom-built home on several acres of land with a pond in the front yard and stables and horses in the back. She drove luxury cars and had the nicest clothes. She seemed to always have bruises or cuts or broken bones, which she attributed to her being clumsy and careless. Nobody thought to doubt her until the day she was beaten beyond recognition. She is fortunate to be safe and well now, and her ex-husband long since dead of a heart attack. One hopes that people today would question such frequent injuries and intervene on behalf of a victim. Still, there are plenty of cases where a known batterer killed his (or her—women perpetrate domestic violence, too) partner despite police intervention, restraining orders, and other actions meant to protect the victim.

I don’t believe in living in a state of perpetual paranoia. But yesterday’s homicide in my little town proves that it’s never a bad idea to be aware of what happens around you. Perhaps your diligence will save someone’s life.

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