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Published: Tuesday, 7/18/2006

Marchers call for action to end abuse of women

BY CHRISTINA HALL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Demonstrators against domestic violence talk to Toledo police Sgt. Richard Murphy in front of Municipal Court. Demonstrators against domestic violence talk to Toledo police Sgt. Richard Murphy in front of Municipal Court.
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Gina Mercurio braved yesterday's noontime heat to circle the sidewalk in front of Toledo Municipal Court carrying a large red sign that read: "Somebody's mother. Somebody's daughter. Somebody's friend."

Her goal, and that of about two dozen others who joined her, was to bring an end to domestic violence.

"We don't want it to disappear from the public eye until the killing stops," said Ms. Mercurio, owner of People Called Women in West Toledo.

She and others affiliated with the Toledo chapter of the National Organization for Women and the Take Back the Night collective walked with signs, such as "Stop Domestic Violence," for an hour in front of the courthouse.

They want to stop crimes, such as two domestic murder-suicides in Toledo within the last two months and the deaths of two children and the wounding of their mother by their father, who then killed himself, in Fulton County in May.

"We're sick of it. It's frustrating to me. It's almost like suicide cancels murder. It disappears the victim," said Pat Murphy, interim director of the Center for Women's Studies at the University of Toledo. "[The latest victim] was doing everything right. She left. She was trying to get a protection order with her father."

The march was held two hours after a funeral began for Susan Hichborn, a 39-year-old mother of two who was shot four times by her husband, Lawrence, in the parking lot outside her West Toledo apartment July 11. He then turned the handgun on himself.

Police were sent to municipal court after receiving a call that the demonstrators were in the street. Sgt. Richard Murphy said the group was cooperative and there were no problems. But the officers' quick response was noticed by one marcher.

"The police are here in 10 minutes. How long does it take when a woman calls," asked Danielle Davis, of Oregon.

Mrs. Hichborn and her husband filed for a marriage dissolution in May and had a separation agreement. Police have no reports of domestic violence between them, but Mrs. Hichborn filed a report July 8 about two tires on her car that were slashed outside her apartment. She told police she suspected her husband.

Police were told that before the shootings, she and her father inquired about getting a protection order against Hichborn, but none was issued. During the march, participant Carolyn Wilson met with chief prosecutor Dave Toska and assistant prosecutor Sharon Gaich to find out why.

Mr. Toska said he spoke with the prosecutor and prosecutor intern who interviewed Mrs. Hichborn. He said they listened to taped cell phone recordings, but those and the tire slashings weren't enough evidence for criminal charges against Hichborn or to get a temporary protection order.

Ms. Wilson said she was told the recordings included a dispute about the dissolution agreement and Hichborn denying he slashed the tires.

Mr. Toska said the prosecutor and prosecutor intern suggested to Mrs. Hichborn that they forward the matter to Lucas County Common Pleas Court's domestic relations division, where she could receive a civil protection order.

Mrs. Hichborn apparently was reluctant because she indicated she was at that county court sometime earlier and was told it would cost her money. Those at the prosecutor's office told her there would be no fee, Mr. Toska said.

She apparently got a copy of her police report and left, he said. Those involved in the march said a candlelight vigil for Mrs. Hichborn is scheduled from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. today outside 2905 Tremainsville Rd., where she was slain.

Contact Christina Hall at:

chall@theblade.com

or 419-724-6007.



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