Just 15 minutes before she was to have seen a judge, Rhonda Romero was shot dead a block away from the courthouse in downtown Baltimore by the husband she was hoping the justice system would protect her from.
The attack last year on the steps of the War Memorial Building was one of 1,500 slayings that were the focus of an emotional, national march against domestic violence yesterday afternoon in Washington.
One by one, the victims' names were read, as thousands of marchers carried wood figures representing those who were killed. The 1,500 life-sized wood figures -- all painted red -- were called "silent witnesses."
"It was incredibly emotional," said Debra Bright, a staff member of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's Crime Control and Prevention Program, who was helping to carry the 5-foot-6-inch cut-out figure of Romero. "It was particularly moving to hear each and every name while we were marching."
About 15,000 people -- women and men from each of the 50 states, Canada, Guam and the Virgin Islands -- took part in the march from the Washington Monument to the steps of the Capitol, organizers said.
Hundreds of Marylanders were among them, including church members, victims of domestic violence, victims' advocates, nurses and citizen's groups.
"I think that everybody was moved by the experience," said Francine Krumholz, director of Maryland Family Violence Council. "It was absolutely beautiful."
After the march, a candlelight vigil was held in honor of those who died.
Maryland had 36 victims who were recognized during yesterday's event -- all killed from 1993 through 1996.
Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., who are the co-leaders of Maryland's Family Violence Council, issued a joint statement in support of the effort but were not present for the march.
"This march is proof that people are determined to do something to reduce this worldwide tragedy," Curran said in the statement. "The council has been active in fighting family violence and though we've made serious progress, there's still plenty of work to be done."
Bright, who marched with her daughters, Rebecca, 7, and Rachel, 4, said the event helped dispel some misconceptions about domestic violence.
She said people often ask why domestic violence victims don't flee their abusers before the problem ends in death. Then she pointed to Romero's case.
"The most compelling fact about Rhonda's story is that she had left her abuser," Bright said. "Rhonda had done everything she could. She had gone to the police and she was trying to reach courts.
"We just need to stop the violence," Bright said.
Pub Date: 10/19/97