It was right around 3 a.m. on October 28 when the phone rang in my dorm room. "They're calling all of us to the sorority house. It's an emergency," the voice on the other end of the line said. I honestly, to this day, can't recall who called me or any of the details of what was said in the hours after that. But, I can tell you what I learned, what's been written in the papers, and what friends shared. And I can tell you how it impacted my world view, how I advise friends, and what I do in my work with clients.
It was 1988. Articles, classes and workshops about teen dating violence and relationships weren't a "thing." Facebook didn't exist. The hashtag #ThatsNotLove meant absolutely nothing (http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/24/health/teen-dating-abuse-thatsnotlove-one-love-foundation/). I was in college. Guys were either nice or not nice... there wasn't a lot of nuance or discussion around the psychological profiles of other students. We didn't talk about "emotional or psychological abuse," "controlling relationships," and certainly not "narcissistic abuse." We just dated someone. Or we broke up with them.
In this case, that choice meant life... or death.
Marie Pompilio was just 18, a freshman at Northwestern University, the college I had already attended for more than 2 years. She and my little sister had recently joined the sorority to which I belonged. Peter Weber, Marie's 20-year-old boyfriend of 8 months, was an honors student, studying engineering at the University of Illinois, Chicago. According to many reports, he had been demanding of Marie's time and was very jealous of anything that took her away from him. Marie just wanted to dedicate more of her energy to her new school and new friends.
Her mother Anne (now deceased) said that Marie had called her the evening before we all got that 3 a.m. call -- around 6:30 on October 27. "She told me Peter was coming over and she was going to break up with him." Friends reported she told them her plans, as well. And that was the last anyone heard from Marie.
The next call Marie's mother "received was later that night from Peter. He said that he'd had an argument with Marie and her keys had fallen from her hand just before she jumped out of his car a couple of blocks from her sorority... Weber returned to Marie's dorm room at 10 p.m. to drop off her keys and surreptitiously gather a ring and other mementos. He told Marie's roommate that Marie would likely be spending the night with a friend." (source: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1990-10-07/features/9003230492_1_clothing-peter-weber-police-station)
Her mother reported her missing a little after midnight. Weber, in a move that would later astound and horrify everyone, joined the family in the search for her.
Her body was finally found the next evening two miles from campus -- "lying face down beneath a bush near an alley. Her clothes had been torn from her body and her throat and hands had been deeply and repeatedly slashed." Later, Weber, "who outweighed Marie by 65 pounds, said he had accidentally strangled her in self-defense after she attacked him wildly during their argument. He'd later removed her clothing, he said, and cut her throat in an effort to conceal the accident and make it appear that she had been sexually attacked." He was convicted of first-degree murder in 1990 and sentenced to 30 years in prison. He was eligible for release in 2005. I have been unable to find any information about his release or whereabouts. (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1990-07-27/news/9003030256_1_peter-weber-murder-or-involuntary-manslaughter-prosecutors)
What does a young college student DO with this horror... a crime so shocking that took away the life of someone who, just yesterday, had been so vibrant and energetic, full of excitement for her bright future?
As I said earlier, I don't remember much about those days. I'm sure I was in the same fog of shock that many others were in. I think I remember counseling being offered. I hope some students took that suggestion. I did not. I remembered it. But I had "gotten over it."
Until I realized I hadn't.
In 1991, a work colleague and I had become close friends, taking lunch and smoke breaks together from our downtown Denver high rise office. We often talked about our dating woes and, one day, she told me that she was planning to break up with her boyfriend that night. I freaked. "Do NOT do it somewhere where you are alone with him!" I demanded. She was horrified, "He would never hurt me! He's never done anything like that..."
It was at that moment that I realized my entire worldview had changed when Marie was murdered. I had met my colleague's boyfriend. He was quite lovely. But, I remembered that, just a year before, Iliinois Assistant State`s Atty. Sander Klapman said of Peter Weber: "He's intelligent. He's good looking. He's a killer." I realized that I truly believed... and still do... that ANYONE can snap. Anyone. Mother Theresa? Sure. The Pope? Yup. YOUR boyfriend or husband? Absofreakinlutely!
I read about and hear the same story over and over again. Man kills girlfriend. Man kills boyfriend. Man kills wife. Wife kills husband. And when does it happen? AT THE MOMENT OF BREAKUP. And family, friends, colleagues, neighbors all say, "But, he/she was so nice/successful/well-groomed/helpful/perfect/funny/well-spoken/gregarious... he/she couldn't KILL someone!" Ya. Ya they could. Leaving an abusive partner may be the most dangerous time in that relationship. "Women are 70 times more likely to be killed in the two weeks after leaving than at any other time during the relationship." (source: http://www.dvipiowa.org/myths-facts-about-domestic-violence/)
Now, it's the one message I am VERY clear on with clients...and friends.
"He's sending me threatening texts messages." Believe him.
"She says I will regret this." Believe her.
"I need to go back to the house to get a few things." Take a police escort.
I tell them WHY they should believe it. I tell them her story. Marie's story... The story of The Most Dangerous Moment.
Then, we plan. Carefully.
Click here to create an interactive Safety Plan: http://www.loveisrespect.org/for-yourself/safety-planning