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Bearing 'silent witness' Project heightens awareness of domestic violence

A memorial was held Wednesday to honor Kari Gorman, a Wilson High School graduate who was killed in a murder-suicide this past summer.

Kari's likeness was captured in the form of a life-sized cutout, joining nine other cutouts represented in the "Silent Witness Project," a memorial at Niagara University honoring Niagara County women murdered by spouses or partners. The program also began the observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Kari, 18, died on July 26, when she was shot by her boyfriend, Shawn Wolf. She also was the youngest victim added to the memorial. Wolf then went to a cemetery and turned the gun on himself, taking his own life.

Kari's mother, Kim Davidson, called the evening vigil "very emotional." She said members of her family were there because they hoped they could make a difference for someone else.

Kari, a cheerleader, was memorialized by her friends, who said they "keep asking why . . . but never get any answers."

"I wish we had more time and I had more pictures," Jill O'Hara said.

Davidson and Kari's father, James Gorman, and Kari's brother, Jeff Hardy, and his wife, Jackie, carried Kari's cutout, which joined the others who have been murdered in Niagara County since 1997:

*Lynne A. Foster, 44, of Royalton, who was shot three times in 1997 by her estranged husband, who then turned the gun on himself.

*Tammy J. Beckwith, 26, of Niagara Falls, shot in 1997 by her boyfriend who then turned the gun on himself.

*Sara L. Spina, 43, of Niagara Falls, found in her bedroom, killed by a blow to the head and stabbed by her husband in 1998. Another man who had come into the house was also stabbed to death.

*Jean E. Schmitt, 54, of Lockport, killed in 2002 by her husband, who struck her twice in the head with a baseball bat during an argument.

*Bridget S. Jermain, 64, of Wilson, fatally shot by her husband in 2004 in their Dorwood Park home while she was sleeping on the couch.

*Coleen T. Robinson, 38, fatally stabbed by her husband in Niagara Falls in 2004.

*Michelle R. O'Connor, 33, of Niagara Falls, strangled in 2004 by her husband, who then set the house on fire.

*Tina M. Boyer, 30, of Lockport, strangled and fatally stabbed by a former boyfriend in 2004.

*Lanerra M. Streeter, 25, of Niagara Falls, shot by an ex-boyfriend in 2006. A cousin was also shot and left a paraplegic.

Jackie Hardy said that in remembering Kari she hoped that others would know the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship.

Susan LaRose, Niagara County Domestic Violence Intervention coordinator, said Silent Witness is a national program, but was created locally in 2006 as an Eagle Scout project by Jeffrey Wick.

"This is a very powerful, very visual, traveling project, which honors those women who were killed as victims of domestic violence," said LaRose.

Mary Brennan-Taylor, director of the YWCA of Niagara, agreed, called the display "visually stunning and emotionally wrenching."

"There are thousands of victims who are threatened by domestic violence," she said. "Countless women and children are waging a daily battle to survive within their own four walls. They don't have to wage their war alone."

Confidential help for domestic violence is available in the Lockport area, at the YWCA, 433-6716; and in the Niagara Falls area, at Family and Children's Services, at 285-6984.


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