Death puts spotlight on domestic violence, how to respond

Published 8:41 pm Friday, December 1, 2017

The tragic death of a mother of three Tuesday is believed to be the result of domestic violence.

Mary Timmons Scott, 35, was reported missing Monday by family and friends. She was found Tuesday around noon shot to death in the trunk of her car. Her ex-husband, Greg Scott, was found dead in Birmingham hours earlier from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in front of a funeral home.

“It really hit home about how things can escalate to a point where the worst thing that could happen happens,” said Dallas County District Attorney Michael Jackson. “Now, you have two kids that are growing up without their parents, and that’s just really sad.”

Investigators believe Greg shot Mary on Tuesday morning when she came to his house on Dallas County Road 540 and then fled to Birmingham, where he dropped off their two daughters with a relative and committed suicide.

According to police, the couple had recently divorced and were in a custody battle over their children.

Jackson said he and his family knew Mary and her two daughters, and while the lawman deals with homicides quite often, this one is different than most.

“I think it just really devastated the community,” he said. “Everybody knew them.”

Jackson said Selma and Dallas County are no stranger to domestic violence cases. Earlier this year, a woman died after her boyfriend shoved her down during an argument. Last year, there was a murder-suicide between a man and woman in a domestic dispute.

“It’s something that society really has to pay attention to and not shrug off because it can have tragic consequences like we see here,” Jackson said. “Often times, people on the outside don’t really realize what is going on.”

That’s why organizations like SABRA Sanctuary exist. SABRA is a domestic violence shelter that helps women, children and men get away from domestic violence. The organization also educates people.

Renee Callen, executive director at SABRA Sanctuary, said Friday that 950 domestic violence incidents were reported in the city in 2016. She said she was still awaiting numbers from the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department and the other five counties SABRA serves.

According to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, of 25,188 violent offenses reported in 2016, 4,611 of them were domestic violence related. There were 43 homicides, 238 rapes, 95 robberies and 4,235 aggravated assaults.

“SABRA offers a safe haven for victims, whether they be male or female, that feel they are in imminent danger,” Callens said. “It is a very home-like cottage that is very comfortable and offers a home-like experience for those that can stay temporarily.”

SABRA also offers a 24-hour crisis hotline, counseling for clients and children, advocacy for court cases, a support group and assistance with finding permanent housing or even a job. Callen said the shelter also helped one victim get her GED.

“We just help them get safety and then independence,” Callen said. “We assess them upon arrival and then help them create a safety plan.”

The shelter is just a phone call away, Callen said. She and Jackson said it may be difficult for victims to come forward, but they encourage them to do so before their life is in danger.

“They don’t have to live like that,” Callen said. “There’s a better world out there.”

“Their life might be at stake, and so you want people to come forward and try to get out of that situation,” Jackson said.

The number for SABRA Sanctuary is (334) 877-4645. The 24-hour crisis hotline is (334) 874-8711.

A memorial service for Mary was held Wednesday night. A memorial service will be held in Natchez, Mississippi, her hometown, at a later date.