Exhibit honors victims of abuse College will display figures representing slain women from Md.

October 20, 1997|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

A traveling exhibit with 36 life-size figures representing women killed by domestic abuse in Maryland -- including one from Hampstead -- will arrive at Carroll Community College today after a weekend march in Washington with 1,500 other such figures from as many as 41 states.

The "Silent Witnesses" exhibit has been duplicated in several states since a group of artists in Minnesota conceived it in 1990. It was the centerpiece of the March to End the Silence on Saturday.

The figures range in size from 65 to 72 inches tall, are made of plywood or pressed board and carry a short narrative on a shield telling the victim's story.

"In the directions, it says we're supposed to hug the figure as we put it in the stand -- that we should show care," said Sherry Glass, the Carroll Community College director of innovative learning programs. She will pick up the figures this morning in Baltimore in the canvas "body bags" they are stored in for travel.

"This is a memorial to the women as well as an exhibit on domestic violence," Glass said.

The exhibit made its debut last year at the University of Baltimore, where Glass' daughter was a law student.

"It had such a powerful impact on her that she told me we should bring it to the school, to Carroll," Glass said.

Glass scheduled it for this week, to tie in with the college's drug and alcohol abuse awareness week, because substance abuse often contributes to family violence.

A table in the main hall will carry information and hot line numbers related to domestic abuse, Glass said.

The Maryland "Silent Witnesses" exhibit was created by a broad coalition including Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., the Junior League of Baltimore and House of Ruth, a Baltimore shelter for battered women. Most of the materials were donated, and the Junior League raised money to buy what wasn't donated.

Students in sewing classes at the Laurence G. Paquin School for Expectant and Parenting Adolescents in Baltimore made the body bags; local carpenters donated their time to cut the figures; and several other volunteers worked on the project, said Francine Krumholz, director of the state Family Violence Council, a federally funded task force coordinated by Townsend's and Curran's offices.

The exhibit has 36 figures, one of which represents the "uncounted women" whose deaths may have been caused by a person they knew well, but were ruled accidental. Except for two of the women, the victims' names have been changed to protect the privacy of the families, Krumholz said. The families of Gina Marie Lupson-Holden-Young and Rhonda Romero have been in contact with the council and agreed the women's real names could be used.

Organizers did not have a chance to contact many other victims' families.

The rest of the figures represent women killed in domestic violence during a one-year period, from July 1, 1994, through June 30, 1995.

Jean Kellogg Fick of Hampstead is represented as "Janet Fenton." Fick, 57, died of multiple stab wounds in her home Aug. 26, 1994. Her son, Timothy, then 17, was convicted in March 1995 of first-degree murder, but was found not criminally responsible for his actions by a Circuit Court judge. Since the day after the slaying, he has been at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup.

Violence had troubled the family. Jean Fick's husband, Eugene Fick, was committed by the state to Springfield Hospital Center for a 1989 assault on his wife, son and daughter.

A Taneytown woman -- Angela Grace Houck -- died in a domestic assault during that period, but is not included in the exhibit because she was living in Pennsylvania at the time.

On Feb. 2, 1995, according to police, Michael John Houck shot his estranged wife with a 12-gauge shotgun before walking away and shooting himself at the Littlestown, Pa., house where she had been staying for seven months. The couple had two sons, who were with relatives at the time of the shootings.

Divorce filings between the couple did not include any allegations of abuse, and Mrs. Houck had never pressed charges, despite visits by state police to investigate possible domestic abuse at the Taneytown home the couple had shared since their marriage in 1983.

This year, two more Hampstead women and a man haved died in domestic killings.

In early June, police found the body of Patricia A. Titus, 40, in a closet in her Hampstead home and her two children asleep in a nearby bedroom. Her estranged husband, John T. Titus, 33, was found unconscious from an overdose in a bathtub. He was charged with first-degree murder, but hanged himself in a Carroll County jail cell last month.

Later that month, Sharon L. Mechalske, 38, was found shot to death in the bedroom of her home, and Kent L. Cullison, 30, was found shot on the front porch. He died a short time later.

Smith Harper Dean III, 38, a former boyfriend of Mechalske, has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths. Carroll State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes is seeking the death penalty in that case.

Since the killings, Barnes secured money from the County Commissioners to have an additional investigator on call 24 hours a day to monitor violations of court orders and other domestic problems.

Pub Date: 10/20/97

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