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Woman survives being shot by boyfriend
Domestic Violence Awareness Month
EP Memorial2
Recognizing October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Pictured (l-r): Cheryl Hughes, Melanie Griffin, John Lewis, Willa Lewis, Bob Hughes (kneeling), Luciria Lovette, Cynthia Burch, Paula Foerstel. - photo by Photo by Emily Peterson
Editor’s note: The story below was shared with the Courier by a survivor of domestic violence who was shot in her home in Richmond Hill in 2000. Fictitious names were used because she continues to fear for her life.

Melinda, now 36 and the mother of two children, recalls the night seven years ago when she was shot and left for dead by a man she thought she could trust.
Telling her story to the press for the first time since the shooting, she struggled to retain her composure. At times, it was a losing battle and she had to wipe away tears that streamed down her face.
But Melinda courageously fought the urge to remain silent in hopes of helping others who are trying to survive their own  domestic violence situation.

Shot and left for dead
Melinda awoke to the ringing of her doorbell around 3 o’clock that summer morning.
Groggy from putting in long hours at work, she wasn’t too pleased someone was disturbing her rest — especially when she was facing an early day.
Forcing herself out of bed, Melinda made her way to the living room of her Richmond Hill apartment.
She was suddenly startled to see her estranged boyfriend, Anton, standing there.
“He had let himself in,” Melinda said, noting she had asked the property managers to change her locks, but said they hadn’t done so at the time.
Although she was surprised to see him, Melinda could tell he had something on his mind.
“We sat in the living room and talked. He did most of the talking,” she said. “He poured his heart out.”
She described Anton’s demeanor as calm, as he went into the kitchen and opened the “fridge.” Melinda said she wasn’t sure what he was looking for. From there, he headed to her answering machine.
When he realized the phone’s ringer had been turned off and the volume turned down on the answering machine, he became angry because he realized Melinda had not heard any of the messages he had been leaving throughout the night.
That’s when he struck her in the left eye with his fist. The force knocked Melinda to the floor, and partially under a table.
Dazed, she looked up and saw the man she had dated for two years pull a pistol from his pocket and point it at her.
“As soon as I put my hand up, he pulled the trigger,” she said. “It was really loud. Pow!” But the noise wasn’t the only sensation emitted from the incident.
“I remember the smell of the gun smoke. I smelled that smell for a long time, about a year,” she said.
She noted Anton didn’t say anything before he shot her, and he only released a sigh afterward and stood there for what seemed like an eternity while Melinda played dead.
She said her body, from the waist down, was protruding from underneath the table and she was waiting for another shot to ring out.
“I thought he was going to shoot me in the stomach,” she said. Instead, Anton walked out of the apartment.
Melinda, her white T-shirt soaked in blood, struggled to get up. She knew she had been shot in the hand, but she didn’t realize the extent of her injuries until she locked the front door and reached for the phone.
“My arm was shaking,” she said, noting the bullet had traveled through her hand and struck her left shoulder, breaking it.
Emergency responders arrived within minutes, and police arrested Anton in the parking lot.
Amazingly, Melinda’s young son, who was also in the apartment, had slept through the entire incident.

The aftermath
Melinda was taken to a Savannah hospital, where she stayed for about a week. Her cousin took care of her son during that time.
Anton spent a night in jail and bonded out. A year later, he was tried, convicted and sentenced to 19 years in prison. He’s up for parole in 2010.
Melinda underwent two surgeries on her hand, and another on her shoulder. She still has a rod in her arm and hasn’t regained full use of it since the shooting.
Although the nightmares have somewhat dissipated, her memories of that day — and ensuing headaches, continue to linger.
Melinda said she was thankful for the Tri-County Protective Agency, and the shelter staff.
She and her son stayed there after she was released from the hospital and until her family could help move her out of state.
Today, Melinda is trying to lead a normal life. She’s working and has gone back to school. She eventually wants to get a job in medical billing.
“It’s been a struggle,” she said. “I don’t trust anyone anymore. It affects relationships.”

Signs of abuse
Melinda, who had been married for five years to a military man, divorced her husband after one of his deployments overseas. She said he suffered from work-related stress and became emotionally abusive.
A friend later introduced her to Anton.
Melinda said she believed him to be a really sweet and nice man who was “different from her husband.”
Anton was about 10 years older than her and was described as mature by Melinda — something she found appealing.
The pair spoke on the phone for a while before they began dating. They never lived together.
“We had the same friends, and my family really liked him,” she said.
But Melinda said he started becoming controlling after they had been seeing each other for about six months.
“He started calling my job and threatening me if I wasn’t home at a certain time,” she said.
The first time Anton hit her was about a year into their relationship.
She said he clutched his fist and hit her in the left eye, causing her to black out. When she woke up, she sought medical attention at a Savannah hospital and safety at a shelter in Chatham County.
“My son celebrated his birthday at the shelter,” she said.
Melinda said she broke off the relationship with Anton at that point, but he later apologized and promised never to hit her again.
A year later, he broke his promise.
Anton had reportedly gotten into a confrontation with a property manager at Melinda’s apartment complex. As a result, he was not allowed on the premises.
Threatened with possible eviction if she were to allow Anton back in her home, and refusing an invitation to move in with him, Melinda opted to end their relationship.
Less than a month later, he showed up at her home and shot her.
 “I never really thought he would shoot me,” she said.

Help is available
Melinda hopes others who are in abusive relationships will learn from her story and seek help.
“Tell someone you can trust,” she said, “a pastor, a family member. There is help. There are shelters.”
Director Paula Foerstel said between 400 and 500 women have sought help from the Tri-County Protective Agency so far this year.
She commended Melinda for sharing her story during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and hopefully making the community more aware of the issue and assistance that’s available to victims of abuse.
Anyone in need of help can call the agency at 368-9200. A trained staff is on duty 24 hours daily, including holidays.
There is no charge for any services provided by the agency and all information remains confidential.
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