Vigil recalls woman, other domestic violence victims
By KRISTA KLAUS | News Channel 8
Published: March 7, 2010
CLEARWATER - Eight luminaries lined a table outside the Pinellas County courthouse tonight, one for each life claimed by domestic violence in the past year.
A photo of 29-year-old Laura Taft was propped up behind the row of candles. Clearwater police say Taft's ex-boyfriend Craig Wall, 34, stabbed her to death two days after bonding out of jail for violating a protective order. Taft filed the order after their 5-week-old baby died in Wall's care.
The infant was taken off life support Feb. 6, the day after the child experienced medical problems while in Wall's care, court documents say.
Taft's father attended the vigil and said he doesn't want her death to be in vain.
"More women need to be aware of when they're in an abusive relationship," John Bredeson said.
Organizers said reporting and preventing domestic violence is a community responsibility, from families to medical workers to law enforcement.
At the vigil, members of the Pinellas County Domestic Violence Task Force released results of a 10-year study of local domestic violence fatalities. The report found that in 98 percent of the deaths, victims never contacted a shelter.
Laura Taft's friend and neighbor Marie Johnson said she tried to help Taft but didn't know local shelters existed.
"If I had the information, she wouldn't be gone. She would be safe," Johnson said.
The study also found that in 90 percent of the fatalities, there was no record of the batterer being ordered to receive treatment. Linda Osmundson, executive director of CASA, said the numbers underscore the importance of boosting domestic violence prosecution rates and closing loopholes in the legal system.
"Our system still does not think domestic violence is a real crime because it affects women and oh, a few kids," Osmundson said. "Our system still does not think domestic violence is important."
Wall is in the Pinellas County jail charged with first-degree murder in the death of Taft. Wall has not been charged in the death of his infant son.
Help is available:
• If you are a victim or know a victim, call the domestic violence hotline at 1-800-500-1119
• If you hear violence at your neighbor's house, call 911
• For more information on domestic violence, www.casa-stpete.org
WFLA's Krista Klaus can be reached at 813-225-2736.
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