SILENT WITNESSES

What is a Silent Witness?

Welcome to the Genesis House Silent Witness virtual exhibit. Each of the silhouettes below represent a real victim of domestic violence killed in Lorain County from 1989- Present and their story. These are real people who lived, worked and raised their children in Lorain County who were brutally murdered by a person close to them who supposedly loved them.

 

On average, 20 people experience intimate partner violence every minute in the U.S.  and fatality rates within domestic violence are staggering. *Statistically, almost one out of five or 16.3% of murder victims in the U.S. were killed by an intimate partner; women account for two out of three murder victims killed by an intimate partner. 

 

Through this exhibit Genesis House is committed to break the silence that often goes with domestic violence and provide awareness in the community of our services to victims of domestic violence and that there is help out there for those living in violent or abusive situations.

 

The physical version of this exhibit consist of life size silhouettes that can be displayed at any church, school, business, community group or city building that has ample space. For more information about hosting a Silent Witness Exhibit, contact Genesis House for more information.

Note: Some of our silent witnesses have photos attached. Hover over the silhouette to reveal. This feature is not supported in mobile view.

*Source: Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980-2008. Nov., 2011. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The Experience

The Silent Witness Exhibit can be very difficult to experience. These are people from your community, they went to your schools, they lived in your neighborhoods. They could be your parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt or uncle, friend or even you. 

The experience can be upsetting. It's supposed to elicit a reaction from those who see it. The goal is to break the silence, bring awareness of this type of violence and hopefully to encourage and inspire folks to create change. We want you to get motivated to get involved with the movement to end domestic violence. 

In 1990, a group of women, upset about the growing number of women in Minnesota being murdered by their partners or acquaintances, joined together with several other womens organizations to form Arts Action Against Domestic Violence. They felt an urgency to do something that would speak out against the escalating domestic violence in their state, something that would commemorate the lives of the 26 women whose lives had been lost in 1990 as a result of domestic violence.

 

After much brainstorming, they decided to create 26 free-standing, life-sized red wooden figures, each one bearing the name of a woman who once lived , worked, had neighbors, friends, family, children--whose life ended violently at the hands of a husband, ex-husband, current or ex-partner. A twenty-seventh figure was added to represent those unaccounted women whose murders went unsolved or where erroneously ruled accidental. The organizers called the figures the Silent Witnesses. 

On February 18, 1991, more than 500 women met at a church across the street from the Minnesota State Capitol to showcase with the newly-constructed Witnesses lined up at the front of the sanctuary. The women formed a silent procession escorting the figures in single file across the street, up the steps, and into the State Capitol Rotunda for public viewing as statements about the tragedy of how their lives ended.

 

The sheer volume of space the figures occupied spoke of their power... and the loss. The Silent Witness Exhibit was officially launched. A press conference highlighted the organizations purpose and goals for eliminating domestic violence murders.

 

Inspired by the impact of the Exhibit on many lives, a few of the project supporters came together with Janet Hagberg and Jane Zeller in 1994 with the determination to create a larger goal, namely the formation of a national initiative dedicated to the elimination of domestic murders. It was then that a five part process model evolved starting with the creation of Silent Witnesses Exhibits in all 50 states.

 

Within one year, as of September 1995, a total of 800 Silent Witnesses had been created representing women who were killed as a result of domestic violence in seventeen states. By February of 1996 twenty-four states were involved. And in 1997 all fifty states had joined the initiative.

Source: https://www.wyomingsilentwitnessinitiative.net/life-coaching

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The History 

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Anita Arquillo, 34

 February 22, 1989

She was the mother of 3 children and lived in Lorain.  Her children were home and witnessed their father take a rifle from the closet and heard their mother plead with him not to kill her. She died as a result of a gunshot wound to the head.  Her husband was charged with involuntary manslaughter and later found not guilty.

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April Cerveniak, 23 
October 8, 1989

April and her husband had two children and lived in Lorain.  She filed for divorce after sustaining considerable abuse during the marriage.  The divorce was final less than one month when her ex-husband stabbed April to death with a kitchen knife.  She had made several police reports concerning his constant harassment. He was convicted of aggravated murder and was sentenced to 20 yrs – life.

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Carla Sivnksty, 22  November 9, 1992

Carla had one child, lived in Lorain, and was shot twice in the chest by her ex-boyfriend during an argument.  He then died by suicide.  After enduring an abusive relationship with him, Carla had asked him to move from their residence.  She was killed the day he moved out.

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Minnie Black, 36
October 5, 1993

Minnie was the mother of 4 children.  She was killed in her home in Lorain while attempting to end a short relationship with her boyfriend.  While her children slept, he repeatedly stabbed her multiple times as she sat on the edge of her bed.  She died while being treated at the hospital. Her boyfriend was convicted of her murder.

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Margaret Doyle, 46
January 6, 1995

Margaret lived in North Ridgeville.  She died when her husband tracked her down and shot her in a crowded public establishment.  He died by suicide the next day. 

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Cathryn Angotti, 37
October 30, 1997

Cathryn and her 3 children lived in Avon Lake.  More than a year after breaking off the relationship with a boyfriend, they met to talk.  In the car, in a park in Avon Lake, he shot and killed her, then killed himself.

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Virginia Velez, 15 November 23, 1999

Virginia was a freshman at Southview High School, her boyfriend was a senior.  Two days after her 15th birthday, he strangled her with shoelaces. He and a friend of his put her body in a plastic trash container and went to a nearby wooded area.  They then doused her body with alcohol and set her body on fire.  He was convicted of aggravated murder and sentenced to 20 years – life.

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Babe White, 25  
February 6, 2002

Babe was the mother of 2 young daughters and lived in Elyria.  She was stabbed multiple times. Her body was dragged into a closet, folded into a u-shape, and hidden under a garbage bag.  She was found 2 days later.  Her husband was convicted of aggravated murder, felonious assault, tampering with evidence, and gross abuse of a corpse. He received 15 yrs – life.

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Metra A. Milton, 44 June 16, 2006

Metra was the mother of 2 and lived in Elyria.  After an argument, her husband ran her car off the road, dragged her out from behind the steering wheel, and stabbed her to death with a kitchen knife.  He was charged and plead guilty to aggravated murder, receiving 20 years to life. A temporary protection order against her husband was in place from a May incident where she was injured with a box cutter and bat.  

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Tammy C. Creak, 38  March 21, 2007

Tammy was the mother of 3 and a lifelong resident of Sheffield Lake.  She was murdered by her estranged husband at a friend’s house where he was staying.  She had tried to call for help but misdialed the emergency number.  Her husband then died by suicide.

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Margaret McCoy, 65 April 15, 2011

Marge had 2 sons, 9 grandchildren, 8 great-grandchildren and lived in Elyria. She was a dedicated Legal Advocate for Genesis House, supporting survivors of domestic violence as they navigated through the legal system.  When she did not meet him as usual, her son contacted the police. The police then learned that her husband shot and killed Marge in their home. He later died by suicide.

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Catherine "Kat" Hoholski, 26 June 28, 2012

Kat was a life-long resident of Lorain and the mother of an infant daughter.  She was murdered and her body was placed in a storage unit to be found a month later.  Her boyfriend fled to Kentucky but was quickly found and charged with her murder. He plead guilty to crimes including aggravated murder, murder, and kidnapping. He received a life sentence.

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Donna Roode, 62
July 18, 2015

Donna was the mother of 2 adult children and lived in North Ridgeville. She had recently obtained a protection order against her current boyfriend for the alleged sexual assault of her daughter. He had emailed her days prior to the shooting threatening to burn her house down. With her daughter in the house, he shot Donna, and then he died by suicide. 

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Kiesha Betton, 40
August 7, 2016

Kiesha was the mother of three daughters and lived in Elyria. Her live-in boyfriend of over a year shot and killed her in their home in front of her two youngest daughters. While being pursued by the police, he changed Keisha’s Facebook profile picture to one of the two of them together and posted a meme about infidelity. He drove to Cleveland, shot his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend, and set their car on fire. He died by suicide when cornered by the police.

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Kelby Jackson, 28  December 9, 2016

Kelby was a Lorain resident and father of 3 small children. During a dispute with his girlfriend, Kelby was stabbed once in the chest. His girlfriend pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and received 8 yrs.

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Cyarah Vince, 23
March 27, 2020

Cyarah Vince was a graduate of Midview High School and lived in Lorain. Responding to a call of gunshots, the police found her boyfriend outside their apartment, his hands in the air and a gun on the ground. The man told the police that he shot his girlfriend. He was found guilty of Murder, Involuntary Manslaughter, Felonious Assault and Possession. He is eligible for parole after 20 yrs.

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Deborah Diamond, 73
June 30, 2021

Deborah lived in Sheffield Village and had two adult children. She was shot in the chest by her husband as she slept. She survived in the hospital for 23 days before succumbing to her injury. Her husband was convicted of her death and was sentenced to life without parole.

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The Uncounted Person Every Year

They lived among us in Lorain County.  They worked every day. We saw them in the store and on the street.  They reached out to their community for help, but we failed them.  They were killed by someone they knew and loved.  Their death was ruled accidental. No charges were ever filed.

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Karen Guerrant,32 
March 6, 1989

Karen was the mother of two young daughters in Elyria.  She was stabbed twelve times by her ex-husband.  Her children were at home at the time of the incident.  Her oldest daughter and sister were both stabbed trying to intervene.  Her ex-husband was convicted of felonious assault and murder and received 28 yrs – life.  Although calls were made to the police department, she died before help arrived.

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Mary Jane Johnson, 51 
August 7, 1990

She was a custodian in the Clearview School District.  Her ex-boyfriend hid in the teacher’s lounge at the school.  He held her and another witness at gunpoint. With the other witness present, he shot her at close range.  He was convicted of her murder.

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Mary Dallas, 33  February 7, 1993

Mary was the mother of 2 children and lived in Elyria.  After being beaten with a baseball bat by her husband, she was released from the hospital and sought shelter at Genesis House.  She died at the shelter the next night as a result of internal injuries.  Her husband was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and released in 2005.

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Lisa Filiaggi, 27
January 24, 1994

Lisa was the mother of 2 preschool daughters.  She filed multiple complaints against her ex-husband for his repeated vandalism, harassment, and assault against her the year after they divorced.  He broke into her home and she fled to a neighbor’s for help. He then gunned her down while she hid in the neighbor’s closet.  She died from multiple gunshot wounds.  Her ex-husband was convicted of aggravated murder and sentenced to death in the Ohio electric chair; he was put to death in 2007 by lethal injection due to a change in Ohio policies.

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Stella Bauer, 46
February 24, 1995

Stella lived in Vermilion.  She was murdered when her estranged husband kicked the door in and shot her.  After the incident, he went to a bar to announce what he had done.  Later that evening, he killed himself in a cemetery.

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Nancy Sanchez, 38  August 13, 1998

Nancy was the mother of 3 in Lorain.  Her ex-boyfriend had been following her and harassing her for several months. He waited for her as she came home.  After a brief argument, he fired 3 shots, which killed her, he then died by suicide.

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Kimberly Yucka, 24 December 6, 1999

Kim lived in Elyria. She was struck more than a dozen times in the head with a hammer by her boyfriend.  At the scene, her boyfriend admitted to the officers that he killed her. He was found guilty of murder and was sentenced to 15 yrs – life.

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Barbara Kallas, 57 January 20, 2004

Barbara was the mother of 3 children and lived in Lorain.  She was shot by her husband 5 times in the parking lot of the library where she worked.  The murder was witnessed by several school-age children.  After shooting his wife, Kallas walked into the library where he told an auxiliary police officer that he had just shot his wife & handed him the gun.  He was sentenced to 23 yrs – life.

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Wendy Marie Mateo, 40
August 18, 2006

Wendy was the mother of 2 sons and lived in Lorain.  Her husband called the police saying he accidentally killed his wife after she threatened to leave him. He was found guilty of aggravated murder, domestic violence, rape, and felonious assault. For these charges, he was sentenced to 24 years to life.

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Erin Biszantz, 34 
March 15, 2009

Erin was the mother of 3 and lived in Columbia Township.  She died from chest and abdominal traumas, rib fractures, and a collapsed lung approximately 2 hours after receiving the injuries.  She was in a car with her husband, when she exited the car by “unknown means” while it was traveling at least 25 miles an hour. Her husband took her back to their home, where she bled to death.  He was charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, tampering with evidence, & unlawful restraint. He was sentenced to 4 years in prison and was released after 3.5 yrs.

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Holly Dembie, 33
August 11, 2011

Holly had a 4-year-old son and lived in Grafton. She was a special education teaching aide.  Her Corrections Officer husband called the Sheriff’s office to report that he had killed his wife.  She had plummeted out of a second-story window as she tried to escape her husband. She had multiple stab wounds from a combat knife.  He was convicted of murder and felonious assault and sentenced to 20 years to life.

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Halyna Whitney, 29
April 21, 2013

Halyna lived in Lorain.  She was separated from her husband and had a U-Haul truck in her driveway, preparing to move out. Her estranged husband climbed through a window, shooting and killing Halyna and her new boyfriend. He then died by suicide.  Halyna’s two children, ages 7 and 1 were in the home while the murders occurred.  

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Gloria Svec, 69
November 6, 2015

Gloria was a mother, grandmother, wife, and dedicated employee at Murray Ridge Center. Police received a 911 call from a man stating that he had shot his wife and his grandson was in the home. When police arrived, Gloria was found suffering from multiple gunshot wounds and was later pronounced dead. Her husband was convicted of her murder and sentenced to 15 yrs – life.

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Michelle Ryals, 45
October 25, 2016

Michelle lived with her boyfriend in North Ridgeville. She was shot once in the chest and was pronounced dead on the scene. Her boyfriend, who had a lengthy criminal history, called 911 saying “send the cops now please.” “I just shot my wife.” He was convicted of felonious assault, weapons while under disability and receiving stolen property. He received 12 years.

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Linnea Satterfield, 56 July 17, 2017

Linnea was a mother of 2 children, grandmother of 5 and lived in Elyria. She was reported missing by her sister. Her body was found 2 days later beaten, stabbed and in the trunk of her ex-boyfriend’s car. He was charged with aggravated murder, felonious assault and domestic violence.

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Robin Nelson, 35
Gavin Nelson, 12
Brianna Nelson, 10
Liam Nelson, 6
July 29, 2020

Robin and her family lived in Elyria and their 3 children went to Elyria City Schools. When her husband failed to show up at work, a co-worker went to check on him and found bullet casings outside the house and called the police. Upon entering the house, officers found her husband had shot and killed Robin, their three children and the family dog before killing himself. It is believed that Robin had been planning to move out of the house before she was killed.

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Heidi Hull, 46
Garrett Hull, 9
Grant Hull, 6

September 6, 2021

Heidi and her family lived in Avon Lake, and her two sons went to Avon Lake City Schools. When Heidi failed to appear on a conference call, her employer requested a wellness check. When police arrived they found that Heidi, her two sons and the family dog had been shot to death by Heidi's husband. Her husband was found to have died by suicide. 

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 Our Former Neighbor

They lived among us in Lorain County. At some point, they moved away. Their life was taken by someone they knew and loved. They left an impression on their friends, neighbors, and loved ones and will forever live on in their memories.

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Connie Flemming, 18 
June 2, 1989

She was married for less than a month.  Her husband was 46 years old.  She died from a blow to her head.  Her husband set the house on fire and died in the blaze.  Earlier that day, he told a friend he was going to kill his wife and then kill himself by burning the house down.  The friend never notified anyone.

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