Women in abusive relationships are far likelier to be killed while attempting to leave their partners
Madison Magazine, October 2011
Women in abusive relationships are far likelier to be killed while attempting to leave their partners—a surpising and frightening fact that Lisa Judd Blanchard, who lost her sister, and Julie Rook Schebig, who nearly lost her life, know all too well.
It’s a Thursday night, and Lisa Judd Blanchard is shampooing the carpets in her Fitchburg home. Survivor flickers across the TV screen in the background, where Monica, furious, is calling John a “Judas,” and Natalie bids $200 on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. A Channel 3 weather reporter periodically interrupts the action, updating viewers on the snowstorm outside before cutting back to sunny Samoa. The episode is called “Off With their Heads.” Lisa’s husband, Jimmy, is out driving around in his pickup truck, plowing and looking for anyone who might be stranded in the ditch, because that’s just the kind of guy he is.
Lisa can’t hear her cell phone ringing over the noisy shampooer, and she’s shocked when she suddenly sees twelve missed calls. She dials voice mail. Her twelve-year-old twin nieces are in a panic. They can’t find their mom, Tracy Judd, Lisa’s thirty-three-year-old little sister. The girls’ little sister, Deja, almost two, is nowhere to be found, either. The twins are home alone, and Deja’s dad, Tracy’s live-in boyfriend, Tyrone Adair, has just called them. “Your mom and sister are probably not coming home tonight,” he’d said, just before hanging up. “They’ve been in a bad accident.”
Everything that happens next is a flurry as blinding and numbing as the snow outside. Lisa calls Jimmy and suddenly he’s there, and the two are racing over to Tracy’s house in Middleton, Jimmy’s truck sliding on the fresh snow, Lisa on the phone calling hospitals, Tracy, Tracy’s friends, family, everyone she can think of. They learn from the police that there have been no reported car accidents. A call to Deja’s daycare provider reveals that Tracy never dropped her off that morning. The twins have not seen Tracy or Deja since they left for school, though Tyrone was there briefly when they got home that afternoon. Both Tyrone’s and Tracy’s cars are gone. Even then, Lisa has no reason to suspect what has actually happened.
—Maggie Ginsberg is an award-winning freelance writer in Madison, Wisconsin