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Domestic violence month cites priority of deadly issue

Leo Klinger was 7 years old when he lost his life to domestic violence. Those who knew Leo said the second grader may have died during a failed attempt to protect his mother Raina Voll who was also killed in the attack by her off-again, on-again boyfriend Shane Stevenson.

Shoshana Lilien was 85 when police said her daughter Hannah Lilien stabbed her to death in the home they shared on Cunard Road in North Buffalo. Hannah Lilien was discovered dead of self-inflicted stab wounds in a motel 15 miles north of Pittsburgh. Police believe she drove the 300 miles after she killed her mother.

Domestic violence does not discriminate according to age, gender, race or religion, said Michael J. Flaherty Jr., acting Erie County district attorney.

“We work hand-in-hand with survivors who come from all walks of life,” said Flaherty as he stood before Erie County Hall addressing members of the media. “The reality is one in three women and one in four men will be victims of domestic violence in the lifetimes.”

The press conference Tuesday morning designated October as domestic violence awareness month, marking 29 years of the observation in New York State, said Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard, who attended the dedication along with Dennis Richards, Buffalo Police chief of detectives, Brian Mclaughlin, Erie County Probation commissioner and Tina Pilkey, director of Erie County Domestic Violence Support Services.

“This month is about awareness,” said Pilkey. “If you feel unsafe or live in fear, make an appointment and an advocate will be assigned to help you.

Pilkey’s department provides court companions to attend proceedings with complainants, counseling and referrals.

“In the city of Buffalo alone, 1,600 new clients have sought our help,” Pilkey noted. “As the numbers go up that means we are doing our job.”

Erie County will shine the light on domestic violence during the month of October by illuminating historic County Hall in the color purple, said Flaherty.

“Erie County Hall is the place where many domestic violence survivors seek help and fight for justice against their abusers,” said Flaherty. “By bathing this grand building in the color purple, we are recognizing the struggle victims endure every day and show we are a beacon of hope, providing safety and security in their lives.”

Law enforcement agencies in Erie County have recorded 5,768 cases of domestic violence in 2015, Flaherty said. Seven of those resulted in homicides. This year there have been six homicides directly connected to domestic violence in Erie County, Flaherty said.

In 2015, Erie County had 47 arrests for violating Orders of Protection, said Howard.

In addition to Voll and her son Leo, three more people – including a 59-year-old man died in domestic violence incidents this year:

• Roberta A. Rybinski, 51, was found stabbed to death March 8 in her Town of Tonawanda apartment. Two months later police from the Town of Tonawanda and Olean teamed up with Cattaraugus County sheriff’s deputies arrested John M. Avent, 49, in Olean. Avent, who was convicted in 2015 of violating an order of protection to stay away from Rybinski, was involved in a loud argument with her in the days before she was stabbed to death, according to neighbors.

• Ruby Stiglmeier was shot three times in a murder-suicide police said was committed by her former boyfriend David Lewczyk in March in Orchard Park. Stiglmeier, a dental hygienist, had a “refrain from” order of protection against Lewczyk. Orchard Park police believe Lewczyk, whom Stiglmeier had dated sporadically for two years, shot Stiglmeier before turning the gun on himself. Stiglmeier is one of the 4,000 people in this country who are killed each year by an intimate partner. Her story echoes those of other women who had obtained orders of protection yet still lost their lives.

• Brian Smith, 59, was fatally stabbed during a domestic dispute on Mohr Street on July 7. Veronica Reynolds, 42, Smith’s girlfriend, has been charged with second-degree murder. Police said Smith’s brother tried to intervene, but he was stabbed in the leg by Reynolds.

email jkwiatkowski@buffnews.com

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