I've been hesitant to post this, because I, myself was afraid to ask what really happened to my friend, Karen Crawford. It hurt twice as bad to find out. After thinking about it for the past four days and waking at night freaked out by it, I feel I need to share her story. Maybe you know someone in an abusive relationship who may need your help. This article in Redbook magazine tells you why you HAVE to get involved:
"I lost my best friend."
—Kriquette Davis, 41, associate executive director of the Goldsboro Family YMCA, North Carolina
My dear friend, Karen Crawford, was murdered by her partner, Peter Matson, on January 1, 2006. I found out she'd died when another friend of Karen's, Becky, called me at work the next day. She said, "I need to tell you something." And I was like, "Oh, my God." I knew something had happened. Becky told me Pete had found Karen in bed and that she was dead. But later, we found out that Pete had strangled her in her bed, pulling the covers up to her chin and waiting some 30 hours before calling the police. Pete was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. He got 20 to 24 years — the maximum for his crime. But that doesn't make me feel any better. Nothing will bring her back.
I first met Karen in 1986. We both worked for a fitness company and hit it off. We even lived together in Raleigh for a short time. Then I moved to Goldsboro and got married. She got a job working for a pharmaceutical company and bought a house in Chapel Hill. But we still saw each other often — we'd go to the Brookline Steeplechase horse race, football games, and Jimmy Buffett concerts. She even dated my brother for a while.
Karen first started dating Pete in 2004, but she was very private about her relationship — all I knew about Pete was that they worked together and he was in the midst of a divorce. I was happy she'd found someone, but when I finally met him at the Steeplechase, I didn't like him one bit. He was cocky, controlling, and made me uncomfortable. I didn't want to say a whole lot to her: Sometimes even with your closest friends, if they feel like you're trying to control them, they go in the opposite direction, and I didn't want it to escalate into a long-term relationship. They dated for about a year, and I was so relieved when they broke up.
But after Pete lost his job a few months later, Karen agreed to let him stay with her while he got on his feet. When I visited her that fall, Pete was storming around the house, mumbling to himself. He was mad because Karen asked him to paint her roof in exchange for staying there. During my second visit, around mid-November, Pete was in another foul mood. I got the sense he wanted Karen all to himself. That evening, Karen told me she hoped he'd find his own place soon.
I called her the morning of January 2 to say, "Happy New Year" but got the answering machine. Pete's name had been on the outgoing message, but that day, I heard, "Hi, this is Karen. Please leave a message." I did, happily. Her message meant she'd finally kicked him out!
The next thing I knew, I was at Karen's wake. The funeral home had dressed her in a turtleneck to cover up what Pete had done to her. I have asked myself, Why her? every day since. She's been dead for nearly two years, and only recently have I been able to get through a day without crying. I started seeing a shrink to deal with the loss and the anger I'm feeling.
I've heard others call Karen's death a crime of passion, but that's utter stupidity. It was murder. And it could have been prevented. Domestic violence is still this dirty secret, but if we don't talk about it, how will it change? I don't even know if that was the first time he hurt her; she never said. But since Karen's death, I have learned that it's all right to say to your friend, "I don't think your partner is treating you well." That's being a good friend.
Loved ones have organized a charitable fund-raiser to honor Karen. Learn more at http://www.nccadv.org/