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Published: Friday, 5/19/2006

Victim wanted husband out of home; Fulton County woman talked with deputy but refused to file complaint

BY TAD VEZNER AND JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

SWANTON - Three days before her husband stabbed her, killed her two young children, shot a sheriff's deputy, and fatally shot himself, Patricia Saunders received a call from the Fulton County Sheriff's Office, asking her about domestic violence allegations she had made against her husband.

She refused to file a written statement, terrified of the reaction from the man she lived with - the man she said had threatened to kill her three weeks earlier.

"She was too afraid of his reaction if she was to go through with it," said Ms. Saunders' brother, Michael Staczek.

"She was afraid it might set him off."

She only wanted a restraining order to have Clarence Monroe Saunders II - who went by Jack - removed from their home in Swancreek Township, she told the deputy on the line.

The deputy replied, according to a sheriff's report, that criminal charges needed to be filed for a restraining order. Ms. Saunders was also told she could get a civil protection order through her attorney.

"She was worried about a protection order. They said,

'pretty much, that's what you can do and that's it,' " Mr. Staczek said, whose family had previously thanked the sheriff's department for its handling of the shooting incident. "She said 'maybe I'm better off just calling 911,' and the deputy said, 'yeah, maybe you are.' Then she felt stupid for asking."

The deputy's call came within a day of Ms. Saunders contacting the Fulton County prosecutor's office, her brother said. Her divorce proceedings with her husband were at a critical point, and she was worried what would happen when her husband received a crucial letter from her attorney.

"She was looking for what protection she might have," Mr. Staczek said.

Assistant County Prosecutor Chuck Bergman contacted the sheriff's department and asked them to get a statement from Ms. Saunders, according to police documents.

Both Mr. Bergman and Fulton County Prosecutor Roger Nagel refused to comment on the report.

It was not the first time she had spoken with the department about her husband. Three weeks earlier, Ms. Saunders placed a call to the sheriff's office, wondering what steps to take after her husband had shoved her in the shower and threatened to kill her and a business client that morning.

"I'm going through a divorce right now and my husband is not dealing with it very well and has been pretty aggressive," she said on the 3 p.m. April 19 tape. "And my attorney's out of town. So I didn't know if there was something I could do to talk to someone? Maybe file a report or what have you. I don't know. He just was pretty physical with me this morning and threatened to kill me and all that stuff."

The dispatcher told Ms. Saunders she should file a report.

But she sounded uncertain.

"When you file a report, though, does he know about it?" she asked. "Because I have small children. I don't really know what to do."

The taped call ends when Ms. Saunders was transferred from the dispatcher to a deputy.

There is no report of the sheriff's office interviewing Saunders in relation to the incident.

"They never interviewed him. The only time they called back was after the prosecutor called [on May 10]," said Mr. Staczek, who declined to say whether there had been other instances of domestic violence in the home.

The sheriff's policy on domestic violence says arrest is the preferred course of action when a complainant writes a statement, authorities witness an act, or when, based on observation and investigation, they have other "reasonable grounds to believe" an offense was committed.

It defines domestic violence, among other things, as "physical harm or threats of physical harm."

On Saturday, Saunders stabbed his wife, then called 911 to get her aid. As a sheriff's deputy entered his house, Saunders shot and wounded him and killed the couple's two small children. He then committed suicide.

Lynn Jacquot, director of the YWCA battered women's shelter in Toledo, said that it was not uncommon for a woman in Ms. Saunders' situation to refrain from making a concrete complaint.

"A woman's absolutely terrified in that situation - imagine what he's saying. She's in fear for her life," Ms. Jacquot said. "There's usually long-term power and control going on, and long-term threat."

Ms. Jacquot noted that in 74 percent of cases where a woman is murdered by her partner in Ohio, the killing occurs when the woman is attempting to leave.

"That's the most dangerous time, when you've made the decision to flee," she said.

She said the No. 1 issue for women calling out for help during such times was that they be placed in immediate contact with support services.

Mr. Staczek said no referral for support services was given to his sister by sheriff's officials.

"As a therapist, I am concerned about how the sheriff has handled domestic violence in our county," said Antonia Jensen, a private mental-health counselor with multiple domestic violence clients whose Wauseon office is near the sheriff's department.

About three years ago she said she called Sheriff Merillat several times, wanting to talk about training his staff to better utilize existing resources such as Women & Family Services Inc. in Fulton County. He never returned any of her phone calls, she said.

Ms. Saunders was released from St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center on Tuesday and is residing with family, Mr. Staczek said.

He added that she was up and walking but going through too much emotional turmoil to talk with anyone, even her employees.

She is the owner of Alternative Management Resourses, a job-placement firm.

Fulton County Sheriff's Deputy Rick Brock, who was shot twice in the left shoulder, is recuperating at his home.

A gathering to commemorate Saunders' life is to be held this month but will be very small, very private, and unannounced, family members said.

For the children - Lauren, 10, and Jacob, 5 - visitation will be from 2 to 9 p.m. today in Sujkowski Funeral Home of Rossford and from 9 to 10 a.m. tomorrow in All Saints Catholic Church, Rossford.

Funeral services are scheduled for 10 a.m. tomorrow in the church.

The family suggests tributes in their name to Women & Family Services Inc. of Wauseon.

Contact Tad Vezner at:

tvezner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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