A case of domestic violence played itself out publicly in Lacey earlier this month when a man shot a woman and then turned the gun on himself in a shopping center parking lot. He died at the scene, while she later died at an area hospital.
Maryann McCarty, 41, had sought multiple protection orders against her former boyfriend Michael Michelin, 50. An order for him to surrender his weapons also had been approved in early October in Thurston County Superior Court.
But Michelin failed to abide by the court order. McCarty was shot and killed on Oct. 12.
McCarty’s death has raised questions about whether the system is working for domestic violence victims. And local law enforcement and court officials are trying to answer the questions raised. Among them: Why was there no action when Michelin failed to surrender his weapons?
McCarty’s mother, Tami Glavin, was one of more than 100 people who attended a vigil for her daughter at the scene of the shooting Friday night. She wants to know why Michelin had a gun at all, because he had a criminal history.
She also thinks that a domestic violence registry should be created so that backgrounds could be easily checked.
“You can meet anybody and you don’t know their background,” she said. “If she (her daughter) had known, she wouldn’t have been with him.”
Glavin remembered her daughter — the oldest of three — as bubbly, and someone who loved her children.
She recalled that her daughter and Michelin dated for less than year.
“I met him at Christmas,” she said. “I thought he was weird, but I didn’t think he would do what he did.”
Lacey police responded to the Oct. 12 shooting.
“We need to evaluate what happened, and if there are areas where we need to improve, then we need to improve,” Lacey Police Commander Jim Mack told The Olympian. “Unfortunately, it sometimes takes these kinds of situations to detect a flaw in the system.”
A civil action
A number of women, and at least one man, sought protection orders against Michelin over the years. The Olympian found court documents showing the protection orders filed by McCarty, as well as by a woman previous to her, in Thurston and Lewis counties.
Michelin also was convicted of second-degree theft in Asotin County many years ago, the court data show.
Thurston County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jennifer Lord, who leads the prosecutor’s domestic violence team, took a deeper look at a separate database of court information and found 15 protection orders involving Michelin that date back to 1997. One of those was sought by Michelin himself, while one was from a victim who had filed a sexual assault protection order against him.
But most of those protection orders were not criminal proceedings, but civil filings, including the two filed by McCarty this year, Lord said. Michelin was never accused of a crime.
The civil protection orders process begins at the Thurston County Clerk’s Office, and it initiated by a private individual.
The office has two domestic violence liaisons and a victim advocate, Clerk Linda Enlow said. The liaisons work with victims to explain the process and prepare them to petition the court for a protection order. They also work with victims on a safety plan.
“It’s a very extensive process to ensure victims know what to expect and to follow through with their orders,” Enlow said.
However, Michelin did not face state-prompted criminal action, and if he had, a whole different system would have been triggered.
Civil proceedings don’t necessarily intersect with criminal proceedings handled by the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office. If they did, perhaps Michelin’s past history would have been detected sooner, Prosecutor Jon Tunheim told The Olympian.
Tunheim said he wants to look at a way to better connect the two systems.
Tunheim said McCarty made no mistake in pursuing a civil protection order, and called it a “good start” when a domestic violence victim is ready to leave a relationship.
However, the law on surrendering weapons in a civil matter is less clear, he said. In a criminal case, no-contact orders and orders to surrender weapons are typically established the first time a criminal defendant appears in court.
In the case of Michelin, the court noted in a review hearing that Michelin did not surrender his weapons, and then nothing happened, he said.
“There’s no follow up,” Tunheim said. “We need to figure out what the court can do at that point.”
Commander Mack said the order for Michelin to surrender his weapons served by Lacey police sought Michelin’s voluntary compliance.
The number of Incidents of domestic violence in Thurston County fluctuate every year, but generally the number of incidents is growing, Tunheim said. Some of that is due to population growth, but it’s also a sign that more victims have been willing to come forward.
That step forward is important, but it remains a challenge, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Lord said.
“It’s different when it’s someone you love,” she said about pursuing criminal charges.
The person who is abused wants to believe that things are going to be OK, and the abuser might repeatedly apologize and say it will never happen again, Lord said.
“It’s that emotional attachment that adds to the dilemma of trying to leave,” she said. “It’s very difficult for people to recognize that they can be free and survive.”
McCarty may have experienced something similar. Her first protection order was filed in June, but she and Michelin failed to appear at a June 20 hearing on the order, and the order was dismissed. She was back in court in September, seeking another protection order. This one, like the earlier one, outlined concerns about threats and aggressive behavior, including that Michelin owned a handgun and several large knives.
“Several times a day he says he wants to kill himself if we are not together, either (an) overdose on pills or drugs,” McCarty wrote in September. “(He) has also told me he wants me to suffer so he should shoot himself in front of me.”
McCarty also said in her protection order statements that she had called police. And yet it’s not clear what happened after those calls.
McCarty’s brother-in-law, Matt Johnson, who attended the Friday night vigil, said Lacey police often were called to her home. Yet it was his understanding that police didn’t have the convincing evidence they needed to make an arrest. Still, he believes an arrest for harassment was imminent. And then McCarty didn’t come home on Oct. 12.
A civil protection order sought by a different woman in 2007 in Thurston County Superior Court spelled out a darker side of Michelin.
“At one time, Mike showed me a 9mm handgun and told me it couldn’t be traced,” she wrote. “He also told me (that) at one point he waited outside my home and would have shot me if I came out.”
She adds: “Mike has spent most of his life in jail,” and then makes reference to an armed robbery in Idaho. The Idaho Department of Correction shows Michelin was discharged in September 2002.
A survivor speaks
Jamie Sullivan of Olympia called The Olympian after the Oct. 12 shootings to share her story about being stalked by an ex-boyfriend who was ultimately sentenced to about a year in jail.
She doesn’t think the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office is doing enough to help domestic violence victims.
“This has to stop,” she said of recent cases, some of which have had a high profile.
Ricardo Gardin-Gonzalez, who fatally shot his wife and mother-in-law, and raped his stepdaughter, was recently sentenced to life in prison. And Christina Belcher, a longtime administrator at St. Mike’s Tikes in Olympia, died last year after she was fatally shot by her husband before he killed himself.
Sullivan took her concerns to a candidate forum in Lacey and asked Tunheim, in light of the Oct. 12 shootings, how he would improve safety for domestic violence victims.
He told her, and later reiterated to The Olympian, that he wants to close the gap between criminal and civil proceedings to “ensure victims are safe and offenders are held accountable.”
He also mentioned that his office has Marshal, an emotional support dog that works with crime victims.
Sullivan felt frustrated about the dog comment.
“That’s window dressing,” she said. “That’s not going to save lives.”