In Pottstown this past week, the YWCA Tri-County Area sponsored a celebration to promote unity, reject violence and create space for healing as part of the annual observance of a Week Without Violence.
The event coincided with news of a brutal murder and suicide just blocks away from the street fair. A woman was shot and killed by her husband who then committed suicide at their residence on Chestnut Street. According to Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele and Pottstown Police Chief Mick Markovich, the victim,Carla Forde, 46, was brutally beaten by Edward Thornton, 42, in the kitchen of the home they shared and was then shot by Thornton before he turned the gun on himself.
In the same week, a Pottstown man was convicted of first-degree murder in a Montgomery County trial for strangling his wife with an orange electrical cord after an argument inside their apartment. Michael D. Hatfield, 70, was sentenced to life imprisonment for the April 8, 2020, death of his 71-year-old wife, Mary.
In Reading, an observance for Domestic Violence Awareness Month was likewise interrupted with news of a couple’s violent murder-suicide.
Heidi Lopez, 33, of Leesport was shot in the head Saturday night by her husband, Ernesto Lopez Milpa, 40, according to police and Berks County District Attorney John T. Adams. Milpa also shot himself in the head and was taken to Reading Hospital, where he was pronounced dead Sunday night, according to the Berks County coroner’s office.
The tragedy was reported as nearly 100 people gathered Monday, walking somberly from Safe Berks on Chestnut Street to Reading Area Community College campus as participants of the 20th annual Safe Berks Silent Witness March. The event held each October to observe Domestic Violence Awareness Month remembers the 76 men, women and children in Berks County since 1999 whose lives were cut short by those closest to them.
Stacey Jordan, managing director of community engagement for Safe Berks, said the goal of the event is to provide support for the families of those who lost their lives to domestic violence and to bring awareness to the resources that could help prevent similar tragedies.
“Domestic violence is not a private issue, and we need to do more to break down that stigma,” she told those gathered at the event. “Domestic violence is, in fact, a community issue and a public health crisis. We seek the help of every member of our community to end domestic violence.”
Reading Mayor Eddie Moran noted the timing of the event coinciding with the Leesport tragedy.“Even as we were preparing for this event, we received the news that there had been another domestic abuse fatality in Berks County,” he said.
The horrifying news of a murder verdict and four more deaths from domestic violence in one week was a searing reminder of the anger and violence that continues in our communities during this pandemic. The violence is its own public health crisis, as Jordan noted.
“My heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of the victim,” said Steele in announcing the murder of Carla Forde . “If you are living in a violent situation at home, please call for help.”
“It is a very horrific situation for this family,” said Adams on the death of Heidi Lopez. “This is a very tragic domestic violence incident. It’s an incident that never should have taken place.”
The events to remember victims and to raise awareness have a difficult poignancy to grasp. As the region bears the news of more tragedies, there is also the reality that the commitment to help victims remains strong. It is impossible to know how many lives are saved each year because of these efforts for domestic violence awareness.
As tears are shed for these victims, so too are the fears very real for those caught in violent relationships. No one should try to escape alone: Call for help and prevent more tragedy.
In Montgomery County, call the Laurel House hotline 800-642-3150 or Women’s Center of Montgomery County 800-773-2424; in Berks, call the 24-hour SafeBerks hotline, 844-789-SAFE (7233) or text SAFE BERKS to 20121; in Chester County, call the Domestic Violence Center hotline 888-711-6270 or 610-431-1430.
Source: Berkshire mont