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'A community can save them'
By CHRIS COLLINS
Of the Baker City Herald
Sharon Bass knew her younger sister, Karen Tugman, had marital problems, but she had no idea her estranged husband would resolve them with a gun.
"What we all need to remember is that we should never underestimate batterers," she told a group of about 30 people gathered at the Courthouse Friday night to remember domestic violence victims. "If someone would have told me that Mallory Tugman would shoot and kill my little sister, I would not have believed he could have done it."
Speaking publicly for the first time since her sister and her friend, Sid Stratos, were shot to death on July 29, 1998, Bass urged the audience not to look away when they suspect domestic violence.
Bass, who worked as a corrections officer and sheriff's deputy before joining the Baker City Police Department as a patrol officer in January 2003, said that before her sister's death, she thought domestic violence only happened to other people.
"Coming from a home where there was no domestic violence, I had no idea what it was personally," she said. "I didn't believe that my life would ever be touched by domestic violence. Now I know it could happen to anyone."
Bass remembered the call she received from her sister's employer at 2 a.m. July 30, telling her that neither Tugman nor her friend, Sid, had shown up for work that night.
When Bass arrived at her sister's home, she found both of her cars parked out front.
"I called my dad and we later found Karen and Sid. They had both been shot to death in her home," she said.
Mallory Tugman later pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated murder for the deaths. He is serving two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.
During an interrogation, Tugman admitted shooting his wife and Stratos with a .22-caliber rifle. Tugman told police he was angry at his wife and had talked about killing her for a few weeks.
Bass said none of her family members were ever told of the threats Tugman made against her sister. They learned after her sister's death that he had first killed her beloved cat, BJ.
And that her sister had told friends that her husband had stated that if he couldn't have her, no one else would.
"Every day I wonder what would have happened had I become more involved," she said. "What if the friends had told me he was talking about killing her?
"What if I would have said something besides you just need to leave.' What if we had all listened to her little comments and noticed she was acting differently?"
Bass' mother, Nora Bass, said after the ceremony Friday that the family paid little heed to the signs of domestic violence that led to her daughter's death, but in hindsight, they were there.
"We had no idea," she said. "In the last month she talked a lot differently. She was quiet for such an outgoing person."
Just of couple of weeks before Karen was killed, she made a comment to her mother concerning her three children.
"She said, You can raise my kids for me,'" Nora said.
Little did she know that she and her husband, Sam, would find themselves in the parenting role for their grandchildren just a short time later.
Sharon Bass believes that she or other family members might have saved her sister and her friend if they had intervened.
"It is too late for Karen, but there are other women many other women who we can save," she said. "I see so many in my work, and I can't save them alone. But we can. We as a community can save them."
Bass urged people who suspect domestic violence is harming someone they know to use these statements to offer support:
oThis is not your fault.
oNo one deserves to be abused
oIt will only get worse.
oI'm concerned for your safety and the safety of your children.
oWhen you are ready to leave, I'd like to help you with that.
"What happened to our family I pray will never happen to anyone else," Bass said. "People need to be aware of domestic violence and get involved. Be supportive. Victims will leave when they are ready and when they think it is safe. If you think there is domestic violence in a home tell someone."
District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff, who also spoke at the Courthouse ceremony, urged community residents to do more than just meet once a year to remember those who have been killed by domestic violence.
"Karen and other victims would want us to get the word out," he said. "If you make it your business, you can stop domestic violence before anyone else has to die."