Charleena Lyles realized the violence against her was escalating and likely to reoccur, according to a victim advocate who spoke regularly with her about an abusive boyfriend.
Throughout her struggles with an abusive boyfriend, Charleena Lyles spoke regularly with Theresa Phillips, a victim advocate in the Domestic Violence Unit of the Seattle City Attorney’s Office.
The two talked only on the phone, in part because Lyles’ presence wasn’t needed in court since the boyfriend, Franklin Camphor, had agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges.
Phillips’ job was to reach out to alleged victims of domestic violence while prosecutors decided whether to file criminal charges. That included providing information on community services, navigating the criminal-justice system, developing a safety plan for future problems, and dealing with concerns and requests.
At a point, Lyles realized the violence against her was escalating in frequency and severity and likely to reoccur, based on what she told police after an incident in May 2016, Phillips said. Lyles was 34 weeks pregnant with Camphor’s child and averted a blow to the head from him that struck her in the shoulder, according to the police report.
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Lyles, who would become a mother of four with that child, “cared about her kids … and was trying to do everything she could to make sure her and her kids were safe,” Phillips said.
The City Attorney’s Office prosecuted Camphor in two cases last year, obtaining guilty pleas to gross misdemeanor charges of assault, property destruction, harassment and violating a no-contact order. In one case, he was sentenced to 70 days in jail; in the other, 90 days.
He also was placed on 24 months of probation, ordered to abide by a two-year no-contact order, complete domestic-violence treatment, possess no weapons and attend a parenting class.
Camphor is being sought on a warrant for allegedly violating probation conditions.
For a long period, Camphor kept appearing in Lyles’ life, despite her best efforts, because “the system is able to respond sort of in fits and starts,” said Julie Huffman, victim-advocate supervisor in the City Attorney’s Office.
Phillips said she didn’t notice any outward signs that Lyles was suffering from mental-health issues that have been cited by some as a possible explanation for her erratic behavior in June.
“We do know that people who are surviving domestic violence are experiencing a lot of trauma,” Phillips said. “We know that trauma has a significant impact on people’s mental health. There’s an overlap.”
Phillips, who has new duties tracking guns that domestic-violence offenders have failed to surrender, said she learned Lyles had been fatally shot by Seattle police while reading the news story on the bus the day after it happened.
“When I saw her name, I knew, I knew it immediately,” Phillips said, choking on tears as she recalled being “devastated.”
“I’m sad for her kids and her family,” Phillips said. “I wonder with the rest of the community if it could have ended differently.”