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Encore: Abuse Survivor Shares Tale of Terror; Wife of D.C. Sniper Feared for Life; Actor was Abused as Child

Aired December 30, 2010 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, ISSUES goes inside the terrors of domestic violence. Tonight I`ll talk one-on-one with a survivor of unimaginable abuse. Her husband doused her with gasoline and set her on fire. We`ll hear her shocking story.

Also, fighting back. A young son brutally beaten and repeatedly abused by his own father. Tonight, this young boy is now a gifted actor and a retired football player. I`ll talk one-on-one with Victor Rivers as he exposes his 15 years of vicious abuse.

Plus, a battered wife fights back. Brenda Clubine says her husband broke her arms and fractured her skull. Then, he threatened to kill her, but she killed him first. Tonight, I`ll talk live with the woman who spent 26 years behind bars for what she calls self-defense.

Plus, a stunning new inside look behind the scenes of the D.C. sniper. Tonight the wife of this cold-blooded serial killer tells ISSUES this entire killing spree was aimed at her. Kidnappings, beatings, and death threats. How did she survive?

ISSUES starts now.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: In tonight`s domestic violence spotlight, we are on the front lines in the war on women. One in four women abused, stalked, and harassed every single day by the men who claim to love them.

I am so thrilled to welcome a very special guest in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Yvette Cade is a heroic abuse survivor. In fact, she`s one of my personal heroes.

In 2005, her ex-husband went to her job and set her on fire. Surveillance cameras captured the horrific attack. Before we roll the video, we want to warn you, it`s disturbing. OK?

That`s Roger Hargrave you`re about to see in the red cap. The red hat, striped shirt. He walks behind the counter where Yvette is sitting and douses her with gasoline that he put inside a soda bottle. Now Hargrave chased Yvette outside the store and then threw a lit match on her.


YVETTE CADE, ABUSE SURVIVOR: I turned, and he says, "I love you," and he began dumping liquid over my head. I had no idea that it was gasoline. I know for a fact that I just felt the flame, and it was with just, like, so hot. I felt the flesh dripping.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: This all happened right in front of customers and co- workers at the T-Mobile store where she worked. Listen to the 911 call.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lay down! Lay down! She`s on fire! She`s on fire! Lay down, lay down! She`s on fire.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She`s on fire. She`s on fire.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They set her on fire?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They set her on fire.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Even the operator cannot believe it.

Yvette suffered severe burns over 60 percent of her body. Look how beautiful she is in that graduation photo. Her ex is serving life in prison, but he is not the only one who victimized her. Weeks before the attack, a judge ignored her pleas for her own safety and lifted the protective order against her husband. Then he simply retired to avoid any further punishment. You`re going to hear his shocking comments in court in a moment.

But first it`s an honor to welcome Yvette Cade. And guess what? You look fantastic. You look gorgeous.

CADE: Thank you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Congratulations on that. You look great. You not only survived an unthinkable attack, but you have become a crusader for other victims of domestic violence.

I want you to take us back to that nightmarish ordeal and tell us what haunts you about that day. What keeps coming up about that horrific day?

CADE: October 10th of 2005, early morning hours, Roger Hargrave had called, and he was -- he called me 14 times. It`s in the trial record. I didn`t want to speak to him, and I was very adamant about that.

But I picked up the phone several times, because I had to go to work that next morning. He was leaving messages of how he wanted to have sex with me, and he said in that phone call that he wanted to fry me like Crisco grease. And so I had called the police. And they came out that morning.

During that conversation, he stated that if I had called the police that he was going to go all out. And he did just that. Unbeknownst to me, when I called the police, they came out, they took the record. I thought it was kind of odd that they weren`t going to issue a -- issue a warrant for him to be arrested based upon what I had told them.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. They should have -- they should have gone and picked him up immediately when he said he wanted to turn you into Crisco or whatever he said. That`s obviously a threat. It`s unbelievable.

This is one of the reasons we`re doing this, this week, all this week, stories of survivors of domestic violence, because we want to send a message to the criminal justice system that that won`t fly anymore. Right, Yvette?

CADE: Absolutely. The judge dropped a protective order, unbeknownst to me. I didn`t find that out until I was in the hospital. And my family had set out in search for the truth to come out, because they had known that I did not and would not have lifted up that protective order, because I knew my life was in jeopardy.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let me get to that -- I`m going to jump in right here, because I want our viewers to understand that very important aspect of that story. Just three weeks before you were attacked and set on fire, a judge lifted Yvette`s protective order against her ex-husband. His name, the judge, is Richard Palumbo.

Listen to Yvette pleading with him in court.


CADE: He`s still contacting me. He`s intimidating my daughter. And he`s vandalizing other people`s properties. I want an immediate and absolute divorce.

RICHARD PALUMBO, JUDGE: Well, I`d like to be six foot five. But that`s not what we do here. You have to go to divorce court for that.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. His whole thing about, "Oh, I`d like to be six foot five," he essentially sounds like he`s dismissing you, even though you`re expressing terror, and it turns out very justifiable terror -- Yvette.

CADE: He -- you know, I couldn`t believe that he was actually saying those things to me, because I went there, one, for help from the justice system to protect myself legally, and it`s like I was being denied help from the justice system.

There are several cases that he had against him prior to that, and thank God that my case -- that he was disbarred from being a judge. But he still can practice law, which I don`t think he should be able to do so to this day.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You bring me to my big issue. Is this a sexist judge, and are there more like him out there?

There appears to be a pattern of disturbing behavior that looks a whole lot like male chauvinism. In another domestic abuse case, this judge referred to victims as, quote, "buses that come along every ten minutes."

I will say that Judge Palumbo was accused of violating judicial standards. What -- what ended up happening? I mean, did you file suit, or did you take any kind of action against this judge?

CADE: Judges have immunity, so there`s nothing that I could do against the judge. He filed a letter, 14-page letter, saying that it was a clerical error, but clearly, that was not the case, because there`s -- there`s the recording itself.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And if the judge wants to come out of retirement and defend himself and come on the show, he is welcome. We would love to ask him some questions.

I want to get back to your relationship with your ex-husband, who thankfully, is now, I believe, in jail for life for attempted murder?

CADE: Yes. He can parole in 15 years, because I didn`t die. Right now he`s just continuing to wreak havoc in my life. He petitioned for post -- post-conviction relief. Even behind bars, he can send me letters. He torments me through the judicial system.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`ve got to tell you we`re out of time, but I want you to come back. I want you to be part of our regular panel. We`re not going to let him get paroled!

Next, married to a monster. Tonight I will talk one-on-one to the ex- wife of the D.C. Sniper, and you will not believe this new twist on this case. He is responsible, along with his sidekick, for killing at least ten people, possibly a lot more, but wait until you hear his ex-wife`s story. You will not believe it.


MILDRED MUHAMMAD, JOHN ALLEN MUHAMMAD`S EX-WIFE: He said in the garage that "You will not raise my children on your own. You have become my enemy, and, as my enemy, I will kill you."




MUHAMMAD: He said in the garage that, "You will not raise my children on your own. You have become my enemy and as my enemy I will kill you." I knew he was going to kill me, and I knew it was going to be a head shot.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: New and terrifying insight into the mind of the D.C. Sniper. John Allen Muhammad`s brave ex-wife is my very special guest tonight. Of course, this guy brutally terrorized her and kidnapped their kids long before he terrorized an entire city.

You remember. It was the fall of 2002. Muhammad and his young sidekick, Lee Boyd Malvo, went on a murderous rampage in the Washington, D.C., area. They randomly picked off strangers, just picked them off, shooting them from afar with high-powered rifles; innocent people, just going about their day, just plucked off. Gunned down by a single bullet from a high-powered assault rifle.

Muhammad and Malvo were captured three weeks into their really horrific killing spree that left at least ten people dead. Malvo, the young one, got life in prison. Muhammad got the death penalty and was executed.


LARRY TRAYLOR, VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS: The execution of John Allen Muhammad has been carried out under the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mildred Muhammad reveals she -- this is a shocker -- she was the ultimate target of her ex-husband`s twisted killing spree. So how close did she come to being the 11th sniper victim?

I am honored to welcome Mildred Muhammad. And she is not only a domestic abuse survivor, she is the author of "Scared Silent." And she works so much to try to get the truth about domestic violence out there.

Take us back, Mildred, to the moment when you found out that your ex- husband, who you had three children with, was arrested as the D.C. Sniper, a serial killer.

MUHAMMAD: Well, ATF knocked on my door on the 23rd of October, took me down to the police station, and began asking me questions of when was the last time I had seen John. I told them that it was at an emergency custody hearing, which was September 5, 2001.

Well, it was at that time when they told me, "Well, Ms. Muhammad, we`re just going to have to tell you we`re going to name your ex-husband as the sniper."

And I said, "What?"

They said, "Yes, we`re going to name your -- your ex-husband as the sniper. Did you think he would do anything like this?"

I said, "Well, I don`t -- yes."

They said, "Well, why would you think that?"

I said, "Because he said while we were watching a movie -- I don`t remember the name of it -- he said, `I could take a small city, terrorize it. They would think it would be a group of people, and it would only be me.` I said, `Well, why would you do something like that?` He changed the subject."

And it was at that point that the police asked me, didn`t I know that I was the target?

And I said, "Well, how would I know that if I don`t know my way around?" So they informed me that I was the target of the shootings.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So the idea was that he would kill all these people and then you would be the penultimate victim. And then you would die, and he would rush in there as the grieving ex-husband and get the kids, your three kids? Was that all part of his plan, to get these kids back that you had gotten custody of?

MUHAMMAD: Yes, ma`am, that was the ultimate purpose for what he had done.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Unbelievable. OK. So your ex-husband -- let`s do a little back story on him. He got an expert rifleman`s badge during his years in the Army. That`s where he learned to shoot.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Obviously, that`s a skill that played a role in his killing spree years later. He was a sergeant in the first Gulf War.

You have said that when he returned from the war he was a totally different man, that he suffered from posttraumatic stress syndrome. Was he abusive to you before going off to war and it just got worse after the war, or was he basically a nice guy before he went off to the war, and then came back completely changed and abusive, violent?

MUHAMMAD: Well, basically, he was a good guy before he left. He was the life of the party. Everybody wanted to be around him.

However, when he returned from the Gulf War, he was a different person, as many soldiers that come from a war zone are different people. He was diagnosed with PTSD. However, he was not debriefed nor was he counseled for this diagnosis.

We have to also pay attention to the soldiers that are coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq and the spouses, because there`s a lot of domestic violence in the military community that needs to be addressed, as well.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, here`s what I want to ask you. Apparently, the abuse began. So first of all, tell me some of the things that he did before he became the serial killer to abuse you after he got back from the war.

MUHAMMAD: Well, John`s abuse was mostly verbal, and it wasn`t that he was yelling. He just made me feel that I wasn`t a good mother, I wasn`t a good cook. Things that I enjoyed, he belittled. I had my favorite clothing, and he would throw them away. Certain things that I made a big deal about, he minimized them to make it appear that they wasn`t really anything at all.

We have to understand that 80 percent of domestic violence, the victims and survivors do not have physical scars. So there`s 80 percent of people walking around emotionally damaged.

And although statistics state that every 9 to 15 seconds a woman is abused, I`m trying to shift the thinking of society to go back to the number one, because the number one starts with a verbal assault. After the verbal assault, then it escalates into a physical assault, which leads to mutilation and then death. So we have to learn how to talk to each other.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me -- let me ask you this. I understand at one point he kidnapped your children when you were with trying to get away from him. He kidnapped the children you both had. Why wasn`t he prosecuted for kidnapping? Because if he was prosecuted, he`d be in jail, and he wouldn`t be the sniper.

MUHAMMAD: Well, No. 1, it was considered custodial interference. We did not have a parenting plan. He took the children in that -- in that window of opportunity that we call it, and so he was not charged with kidnapping. They said he had as much a right to the children as I did.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Mildred, we have to leave it right there. I hope you come back and be part of our regular panel, as we stay on top of this issue of domestic violence against women. You are a hero.

Fighting back. A young son brutally beaten and repeatedly abused by his own father. Tonight, this young boy is now a gifted actor and a retired football player. I`ll talk one-on-one with Victor Rivers as he exposes his 15 years of vicious abuse.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: In tonight`s domestic abuse spotlight, an unforgettable story of survival and redemption from a man that you know because he`s been in a lot of movies. You will recognize him. He`s a fantastic character actor. My very special guest, Victor Rivers, actor, former NFL player and, most important, abuse survivor.

Victor endured years of horrific beatings as a child at the hands of his dad. He witnessed his father also beating his mom, his siblings. But as a young man, Victor finally managed to stand up to his dad and get out of this nightmarish home life. And he rose from the ashes to become a successful student and NFL player and again a well-known actor.

Here is Victor and Antonio Banderas in "The Mask of Zorro."


VICTOR RIVERS, ACTOR (singing): Nobody`s tough as Jack. Nobody`s tough as Jack.

ANTONIO BANDERAS, ACTOR (singing): Nobody`s tough as Jack. Nobody`s tough as Jack.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Victor has detailed his abuse in the extraordinary memoir, "A Private Family Matter."

Victor, it`s an honor to have you on ISSUES. How...

RIVERS: Thanks for having me, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: How old were you when you the abuse began and what was the abuse like? I read about welts and burn marks and cuts. What the hell was he doing to you?

RIVERS: Well, the abuse start as -- as early as I can remember. I actually had an experience that came back to me in a dream that I confronted my mom with as an adult, where I was falling backward in a high chair. And that happened in Cuba when I was 18 months old, when he backhanded me out of a high chair onto a coffee table.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What about the burn marks?

RIVERS: The burns came from sometimes, you know, from a knife. He would, you know, heat it up at the gas stove. And there was one time when I was about 7. He was a smoker and I thought it looked cool, so I tried it when I was 7. And he caught me outside. And he said, "Let`s -- you want to smoke, let`s smoke." And then he proceeded to light cigarettes and burn them out on my lips.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Burn them on your lips?

RIVERS: Yes. Yes. And then -- and then, to add insult to injury, he was the one who came to give me fist aid after it was all done.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That is so sick. It turns my stomach. I`m so sorry you went through that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Victor, you were 12 years old when you were so desperate you decided to go a local police station for help. You told them that your dad was beating you and cutting you and burning you. You showed them the bruises, the scars, the burns. And yet, they didn`t help you. Why on earth not?

RIVERS: Well, you know, this was -- this was at a time when there were no hotlines. There were no shelters for my mom to turn to. And we had had the police at my house many times. That`s why I finally resorted to going there myself. Everything was under my clothing. So, you know, our face wasn`t damaged in most cases. So this was a way for me to show them what was going on.

They were horrified of what they saw, but they said I could sign a formal complaint, and they would talk to my father. And then ultimately, they -- they said there was nothing they could do, that it was a private family matter, and that became the title of my memoir by the same name.

And that was the day that I came home and I sat my mom and my older brother down, and I said, "If I get a gun and I shoot him, would you back me up?" And they didn`t say yes, but their eyes said yes. And, you know, I thank God that he`s got a bigger plan for me and my family.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I am so sorry, Victor, that you went through what you did. And I am just so impressed that you`ve come out the other side to an incredibly successful career as an actor and that you seem like a person who`s full of love and hope and not just bitterness. And that is a huge accomplishment.

Victor and Richelle, thank you so much.

ISSUES dives deep into the hell of domestic violence. Tonight I`ll talk one-on-one with a man who admits to abusing and isolating his wife for almost 40 years.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: In tonight`s domestic violence spotlight, a story every man and woman in the United States needs to hear because it could save your life.

This is the astounding story of a man who used to abuse his wife but is now a completely changed person. Bill Kirksey has been married for nearly 50 years. He admits that during the first 39 years of his marriage he -- the man you`re looking at right there -- was a controlling, verbally abusive husband.

Bill admits he regularly berated his wife. He tried to control everything she did. And he isolated her from her family. This is all classic abuser behavior.

But I`m happy to say everything changed eight years ago. His wife apparently said, enough, you`re going to get help, and to his everlasting credit, Bill did. He went through a batterer`s program run by Men Stopping Violence. Bill was transformed and now he`s on a mission to help other men stop their abuse.

So I want to welcome and applaud Bill Kirksey; first of all, congratulations for your incredible honesty. I know how hard it is to admit all this and to have the courage to change. That`s astounding, too. So I applaud you, sir.

Bill, what did you used to be like? Describe the kind of abuse you used to inflict on your wife.

BILL KIRKSEY, VERBALLY ABUSED WIFE FOR 39 YEARS: Well, I felt like that I was the ruler of my home and that all the decisions I needed to make and if things didn`t go my way, then by gosh I would just rant and rave. I would be profane. I would intimidate. I would even hit the icebox; punch a hole in the wall.

And it really got bad. I withhold money from my wife. I wouldn`t let her see her family and friends. I felt like that she didn`t have the right to have any enjoyment unless I was around.

And while I didn`t hit her, the emotional harm I inflicted on her was as painful as if I had -- if I had hit her. And it was very bad. My kids used to hear our arguments and my berating her and they would sort of decide secretly, we found out a little bit later, who they would live with after we got a divorce. And fortunately, that didn`t happen.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, when kids are hoping that the parents get divorced, that says a lot. But again, I applaud you for -- this takes a lot of guts, people at home, for this gentleman to get on here and to admit all that stuff. And it`s happening all over the country. Right now as we speak, there are women being abused in the exact same manner.

Here`s my big issue. Abuse is about power. A man who feels powerless in the outside world, let`s say he feels powerless at his job, can find himself trying to experience power by becoming a dictator in his own home.

In fact, there`s certain classic signs which are illustrated in the famous power and control wheel. Men control by isolating a woman, minimizing her complaints, exerting what they call male privilege and also by using money and children as leverage.

Now, Bill, you related to some of this. What happened? What happened to make you hit bottom on this abusive behavior and change?

KIRKSEY: Well, Nancy, my partner, issued me an ultimatum after I had an extremely abusive behavior incident with her. She said, you need to get help and change or else. And I knew she meant business.

So we did some joint counseling. Then eventually I went to an intervention program as you mentioned, Men Stopping Violence. And I learned there that my behaviors were all about the power and control that you mentioned, about abusive behavior. And that I needed to be accountable for my actions. And I needed to treat my wife as my partner not as my property.

And it -- attitudes are hard to change, but eventually I realized that patience and kindness leads to a loving relationship, not fear and control.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I just am totally in awe of your honesty, and I think this can help a lot of people out there. Again, women are being abused as we speak. And women watching at home, if you are being abused now, there is something you can do about it, the issue of domestic abuse.

It was splashed across every newspaper last year when singer Chris Brown beat up his girlfriend Rihanna. TMZ obtained this photo of Rihanna`s battered face -- we`re going to show it to you in a second. There it is. Look at that.

HLN`s own Richelle Carey is on the board at Men Stopping Violence. Richelle, way to go, I love that. How did the assault on Rihanna inspire you to get involved in this absolutely crucial issue?

RICHELLE CAREY, HLN ANCHOR: Jane, it wasn`t just what happened to her, as if that weren`t horrific enough. It was the feedback, quite honestly, that I got because I interact a lot with viewers. Some of the feedback that I was getting from viewers, particularly young people and women, Jane -- and I know you`ve heard it, saying things like, "Well, they were just fighting," or "what did she do to make him upset"?

That`s when I really started to key in on this in a way that I hadn`t before because I didn`t grow up in a home where anyone fought. I thought that this was other people`s issues.

But when I saw the way that people reacted to what happened to Rihanna and other cases that have been in the news, I saw that this was society`s problem. This isn`t about whether or not it happens in your home. And it takes society to fix this problem.

That picture -- Jane, my goodness. And if someone can look at that and say, what did she do to deserve that, that`s when I knew that there had to be something done about that. And I became more involved in Men Stopping Violence because what Men Stopping Violence does is -- you`ve talked to Bill -- that`s some of what the organization does, Jane.

But also what they do is reach out to men who are not abusers and tell them, you need to hold other men accountable for what you do.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely. Now, I want to go to Ulester Douglas, who is director of training at this organization that Richelle is involved with, Men Stopping Violence. And you`re a psychotherapist. I understand you`ve counseled Bill and you`ve counseled other men.

How do you stop a guy who is screaming and yelling abusively, who is controlling his wife, using money as a way to control? How do you change all those patterns of behavior? That`s got to be very difficult.

ULESTER DOUGLAS, DIRECTOR OF TRAINING, MEN STOPPING VIOLENCE: Well, I think it is helpful to think about one of the primary reasons men abuse women, and that is because they can. We have learned over the 28, 29 years from men -- we`re talking about thousands of men we`ve worked with -- that men are less likely to engage in this behavior if they didn`t think they could get away with it. You see?

So it takes a community of men in particular to hold these men accountable. So, bottom line is, if he knows he`s not likely to get away with it, he will not do it.

The other thing is to begin to challenge that man`s belief system because one of the messages men get about what it means to be a real man, a husband, a partner, is really the extent to which he can control women. You see?

And so it is really important to note that it`s not just these men who get caught. For example, a lot of times we tend to want to focus on the men who enter into batterer`s intervention program only. It`s only a very small percentage of men who abuse women ever end up in a batterer`s intervention program.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re absolutely right Ulester because one out of four women in America are going to experience this or are experiencing it. So that means women at home right now who are watching have husbands or boyfriends who are screaming at them, who are isolating them from their family and friends, and who are using male privilege and saying, it`s my way or the highway because I`m the guy. And I think this is so important.

Bill Kirksey, again, I applaud you. Abuse is usually handed down generation to generation. In fact boys who witness domestic violence are statistically twice as likely to abuse their wives and girlfriends and children when they grow up.

What were the roots of your abuse? What happened to you in childhood? What happened to make you this way?

KIRKSEY: Well, my dad was a controlling person. He ruled our household. I learned that behavior from him. Not all abusers have learned that behavior, but that`s one of the reasons why I`m speaking out today. And I continue to work in this area to try to show not only to my partner but my two sons and my sons-in-law that I want to break this generational legacy that the man rules the roost and that this a partnership when you have a marriage.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I just love you. You`re fantastic. Barbra, Nevada, your question or thought, ma`am.

BARBRA, NEVADA (via telephone): I just want to say that I was abused for ten years and I was beat. My children were beat. And it does affect your children. My children to this day are affected, and they marry differently because of it. We were physically and sexually abused, and for these men to rant about abuse to women, as long as men are running the country and making women less of a person, this will continue to happen.

I now am away from him. I now have been married to a great man for 23 years, and I love him to death.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, Barbra, I`m so happy for you.

BARBRA: But it still affects me to this day. It still, to this day - -


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`ve got to go back to Richelle for a second. Thank you for that very honest call.

It`s 2010. What the heck is going on here? Why haven`t we moved past this? Why are we still trapped in stuff that seems very backward, frankly?

CAREY: I think -- I agree. It seems backward, but I think it`s so entrenched in who we are, whether men get a pat on the back for something crude they say, from their coaches or their friends or people in their family, that`s what I mean when I say it`s so entrenched.

And I think sometimes people don`t even realize some of the things that they buy into when it comes to male privilege and the way that men are upheld -- some men, let me be clear -- the way some men are upheld in abusive behavior and they don`t even realize that it`s not just whether or not you`re hitting.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Women -- thank you Richelle.

Women, you have more power than you think you do. Look at this gentleman here. His wife said, enough is enough, and he changed. Enough is enough. That`s what you need to tell your husband or boyfriend if he is abusing you.

Thank you for making a difference, Bill.

Coming up, unbelievable stories of domestic abuse and survival: a woman who endured years of torture finally killed her husband. And guess what? They sent her to prison for a quarter of a century. Is that fair? Why wasn`t it self-defense?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Murder in the second degree, a felony. That the defendant be imprisoned in the state prison for the term prescribed by law, which is 15 years to life in prison.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Imagine if somebody fractured your skull, broke your bones, bashed your face in and then threatened to kill you. But you managed to kill them first -- self-defense, right?

But what if your attacker is your own husband? Brenda Clubine spent 26 years in prison for killing her abusive husband after years of black eyes and skull fractures and broken limbs, a jury decided she was guilty of murder and ripped her away from her young son.


BRENDA CLUBINE, SERVED 26 YEARS FOR KILLING HUSBAND: When my jury convicted me for second-degree murder, I knew then that it was over for me and my son. The judge said, "I have to recommend your son to the California Department of Adoption." He was not quite 3 years old.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Look at that precious child. His life shattered; his mom`s life shattered. Finally, just two years ago, after a quarter of a century behind bars, Brenda was given her precious freedom back.


CLUBINE: When it was all meant to be right at this point in time because I have my son and my freedom is just a short distance away now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m ordering her released forthwith. Good luck to you, ma`am.

CLUBINE: Thank you.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: It is an honor to welcome Brenda Clubine. You are my hero for never giving you up and for devoting your life to helping Americans understand what domestic violence is really like as opposed to our stereotypes in our head.

Take us back to that fateful moment when you, Brenda, decided to stand up for yourself.

CLUBINE: Well, first of all, I want to say that it`s an honor and a pleasure for me to be on this show because I think it`s so important that we educate not only the victims but our community.

In one night, in a matter of seconds, I was forced beyond my control to defend my life. My husband said -- asked for my wedding rings because he said, without them, tomorrow they won`t be able to identify your body. So from there I knew I wasn`t going to get out of there that night, and I knew that I was never going to see my son`s face, that I wouldn`t have that chance.

So my husband had been drinking from a wine bottle, and I picked it up and I hit him over the head with the wine bottle. I didn`t even intend to kill him. It was just -- I just wanted to knock him out and leave. And the ultimate result, unfortunately, was him dying.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, couldn`t you convince a jury? You`ve convinced me right now. I`m sure you had medical records of broken limbs and all the abuse, maybe photos. How come the jury didn`t see that you are the victim here?

CLUBINE: Well, unfortunately, back then there was no -- there was no allowing battered women`s syndrome to be admissible in court. And so because of that they just kept saying that the victim wasn`t on trial. So I had no chance.

But because of years later, once in prison and starting my group, we got that law changed, so that another person would never have to live the nightmare I lived and my sisters as well.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Your little boy was 3 years old when -- and he`s such a precious child. I saw those photos -- when you were ripped away from him. He was almost 30 when you finally got out of prison. So what was that like? How did you reconnect?

CLUBINE: Well, you know, it`s getting to know each other. We`re still in that processes now. But he`s an amazing young man and I have two wonderful grandsons. And we don`t -- it`s not about what was. It`s about what`s ahead of us and where we can build our life from here and how we can try to heal.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I want -- I want to get to this big issue because it`s so important. So many people, when they hear about domestic violence, they go, why don`t these women just leave? And there`s some judgment behind that question.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: In reality, it is never that simple.

Here`s another clip from this documentary.


DR. ELIZABETH LEONARD, PSYCHOLOGIST: Why doesn`t she just leave? That`s the question we always ask. Let`s think about the question some more. It assumes that leaving stops his violence, when actually leaving escalates the violence. We have a term for it. It`s called separation assault. It happens so often that when she tries to leave he intensifies his violence. In fact, she is at 75 percent increased risk for being killed after she leaves.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: So Brenda, have people ever asked you, why didn`t you just leave? What do you tell them?

CLUBINE: Absolutely, they`ve asked me and that is because people don`t get it, they don`t understand. They don`t understand what it`s like to live in fear, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They don`t understand what the threats are and that they -- when they say they`re going to kill you, your children, your friends, your family members. The guilt and the shame, that goes along with it.

But in my case, I did leave, I left 11 times. I got a restraining order, I filed charges. But the problem was -- is that my husband would hunt me down and in two to five days, every time I left he would find me.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, my gosh.

CLUBINE: So there was nowhere for me to go.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hang on, we`re going to get to more of this after the break and take your calls.



GLENDA CROSLEY, SERVING 15 YEARS TO LIFE FOR KILLING HUSBAND: There were times when I begged him, just stop. Just stop. Why can`t you stop? There were times when he was suicidal and at his lowest, and I cradled him in my arms and I told him he was a good man, we`d get through it.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was a clip from "Sin by Silence" -- fascinating documentary, moving documentary about women behind bars for killing their abusive husbands.

And my guest Brenda Clubine served 26 years because she defended herself against a husband who beat her to a pulp and threatened to kill her.

Is that fair? Of course not.

Dolores, Indiana, your question or thought, ma`am?

DOLORES, INDIANA (via telephone): Yes, I can live -- I have lived through what some of these women and I can agree with it. My husband beat me lifeless three or four times, and he would tell me he was going to kill me. He would steal my children. And he would take me and he would kidnap me and everything else. This is before they had any felony for wife beating or anything.

But anyway, I would hide knives, pack them in my purse. I was a waitress, and I put in my mind, it come to the point where it was going to be me or him. And it got to that point, I had knives hid all through the house, and I would pack them.

One day he was going to lay me out again. And I stabbed him. And when I stabbed him, I meant to kill him. Within my heart I truly did. Thank God I didn`t, because I would still be sitting in prison.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, well, Dolores, thank you for sharing your very honest story.

I want to ask Brenda Clubine. Did you try to protect yourself in the same way? Did you -- how did you try to get away from this guy?

CLUBINE: That night or in general?


CLUBINE: I left multiple times, and when I left, it would be when he would be gone because that would be my only safe time to leave. Then he wasn`t pinning me down on the floor or pummeling me or whatever was happening at the time. And when he was gone I felt that I would have a safe bit of time that I could get out, pack some things and go.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: With your kid?

CLUBINE: But the unfortunate --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: With your child?

CLUBINE: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. But unfortunately, I don`t care where I went, and the fact that I didn`t tell anybody where I went, he would find me. I had six jobs in three months; he got me fired from each and every one of them.

So that just proved everything that he said about me never being able to survive without him; that I would never make it on my own became very real for me, because I couldn`t make it. So I kept going back.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Why do you think he was abusing you? What was wrong with him? What was his psychosis?

CLUBINE: Honestly, I don`t know why he was abusing me. I believe that he had his own issues. I don`t think that there`s any excuse for anyone ever to put their hands on anyone. I know there is no excuse. I think that he used -- he used to say that I was upsetting him. I was making him angry, if I just did things right. And I believed those things.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We are out of time. We want you to come back. We love you. We`re so glad you`re out.