Domestic Violence Death Of A Parent Can Scar Kids For Life
Jessica Rosenbeck had just settled down in front of the television when her phone rang.

A little while after letting it go to voice mail, she played back her brother's message.

"Dad just shot mom," he said.

"I literally was in shock. I couldn't feel my arms or my legs," recalled Rosenbeck, then 21 and staying with an uncle in California. "I felt like I wasn't even in my body."

Minutes earlier, at a home thousands of miles away in Terryville, 15-year-old David Magnano heard four gunshots and saw his mother's body slumped on the front steps. He checked for a pulse. Nothing.

His father, wielding a pistol, got into his mother's van and drove to a nearby park, where he shot himself.

"I watched it happen, and I was just in shock," Magnano said of his mother's murder in 2007. "I felt responsible. I wished I had done something."

Magnano and Rosenbeck are among the children experts call silent victims. They are the survivors of homicide and domestic violence whose lives are forever changed. They may go on to live with relatives or be placed in foster care. The trauma of their experiences has lasting effects on their lives.

The weeks that followed were a blur of grief and confusion for Magnano and Rosenbeck. Magnano and his 9-year-old sister, Emily, who also was in the house at the time of the slaying, were placed in a group home under the care of the state Department of Children and Families. Rosenbeck returned from California to be with her siblings.

"We just cried," she said. "We didn't know what else to do."

The three moved several times after the Aug. 23, 2007, deaths of their parents. Rosenbeck went to live with an aunt and uncle before getting a place of her own. David and Emily lived with various relatives until David went away to college at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. Emily was adopted by an aunt and uncle.

They supported each other through the pain.

"It was surreal. It was so difficult," Rosenbeck said. "It's like someone pulled the rug right out from under you and no one understands."

They're not alone. Many of the domestic violence-related killings that occurred in Connecticut over the past year have involved children.

Last summer, James Morrin fatally shot his wife, Alice, at their Vernon home before shooting himself. The couple's two daughters, aged 9 and 15, were inside the home during the shootings.

In January, Selami Ozdemir, who had a history of domestic violence, shot his wife to death at her West Haven residence and then killed himself, police said. The couple's two sons, a 6-year-old and a 7-month-old, were inside, though it is unclear if they witnessed the shootings.

Less than a month later, Dia Wells Palafox, 30, was found stabbed to death in her New Britain home. Her estranged husband, Juan Palafox, has been charged with murder. Police believe the couple's three children — two boys, aged 6 and 5, and a girl, 2 — were in the house when their mother was killed, but were not aware of what had happened.

In all of the cases, the children were not physically harmed. But for some, the emotional scars run deep.

History Of Violence

Years of bearing witness to domestic abuse came to a head for Rosenbeck and Magnano in the summer of 2007. Before the murder-suicide, the two had seen violence erupt in their home almost daily. Scott Magnano, David's father and Rosenbeck's stepfather, once kicked their mother, Jennifer Gauthier Magnano, in the ribs so many times she was hospitalized.