USA: ‘It did not have to happen': Murder/suicide spotlights fight against domestic violence

27 February 2010

The glow of a hundred candles illuminated the faces of the somber crowd gathered in front of a small blue house on Churchill Drive Thursday night. The flames revealed the grief-stricken faces of friends and family mourning the loss of Karon Barrow. Police say Barrow, 21, was shot and killed a week ago by her boyfriend, Ja’cole Wilson, 22, who then turned the gun on himself.

“This candle will go out when we blow it out, but don’t let Karon’s memory be extinguished,” said Donnie Thurman, one of the evening’s speakers. “Let’s remember Karon in the best possible way, and lets even remember Ja’cole in the best possible way.”

A handful of red balloons were released, one for Karon, Ja’cole, and one for each of their children. The remaining balloons were released for the community.

Cierra Brown, Karon’s friend, let the balloons go and the crowd watched as they drifted away into the night sky. “We’ve got to stick together and come together as a community,” she said.


Many people who knew the couple said they were inseparable. They had two children together, one born six weeks earlier. The couple had dated since middle school. “Most everybody who knew Karon knew Cole and most people who knew Cole knew Karon,” said Titus Hopper with Faith Harvest Church.

But the relationship was not always a happy one.

Court documents show that in 2006, Wilson was arrested for assaulting and striking Barrow by hitting her on the forehead. It was later dismissed. In 2005, according to court records, Wilson was arrested for hitting Barrow in the nose and causing it to bleed.

A month ago, a warrant was issued for Wilson’s arrest after documents claim he assaulted Barrow’s mother. Documents read that he hit “her about the face and head, knocking her to the ground, and trying to pull out her dialysis tube.”

Those events culminated early Sunday morning when, shortly after a family gathering at his home, police say Ja’cole shot Karon and then himself.

Cathy Robertson, executive director of the Cleveland County Abuse Prevention Council, said the tragedy could have been averted. Robertson was invited to speak at Thursday’s service by Brown. “It did not have to happen,” Robertson told the group. “There is help for couples who are having problems.”

“I see this [Barrow’s case] as the same kind of event that happened on Shannonhouse street last summer. Even though the young man was killed by police, we really looked at it as suicide by police,” she said.

Last June, Jermaine Farmer was shot to death by police after he opened fire on an officer. Later that night, the body of his ex-girlfriend, Tanisha Strong, was found in a nearby home. Strong’s family believes she died at Farmer’s hands.

Love should not hurt, Robertson said. When it does, something is wrong.

Robertson said, in many cases of domestic violence, the abuser desperately wants to stop the abusing but cannot. The cycle continues to get worse until it explodes. “The only way to stop is for someone to leave,” she said.


Tott Griffin, pastor and funeral director of Genesis Funeral Services, spoke about stopping the violence in the community. “For over 5 years, I’ve had a real concern about violence in Cleveland County,” he said. As a funeral home director, he has seen his fair share of preventable deaths. That concern motivated Griffin to develop The Center for Non-Violence. “We don’t have to wait till we get to a situation like this,” he said. “A lot of things could be handled through communication.”

Other community members spoke Thursday about building relationships and focusing on God. “I’m going to challenge everybody to live harder and live smarter,” said Hopper. “If we don’t focus on God…you have nothing,” said Thurman. “We can overcome this thing.”

Robertson said counselors at the Abuse Prevention Council have seen 56 domestic violence clients so far this year and at the courthouse 446 restraining orders were filed since last July. The average age of those who come in seeking counseling is 31 to 40, according to Robertson.

Robertson said many women don’t leave a domestic violence situation because they don’t know anything else. There are also economic reasons to stay in an abusive relationship, particularly when there are children involved.

She said fear plays a part as well. “Most people who are perpetrators have threatened suicide in the past and that’s a powerful coercion, to have someone threaten suicide,” she said.

Robertson said there can also be societal pressure to stay and outsiders might see the couple as so much in love, and the situation as “romantic.”

There are also misconceptions about abuse. “Domestic violence is not about someone having a temper, it’s about one person having the feeling of power or control over the other person,” she said. Robertson said friends and family need to get involved if they suspect someone of being abused.

By Rebecca Clark.
Originally published in The Star, Cleveland Country on Friday, 26 February 2010.
Original article online at:

The Star, Cleveland County