Vigil calls to overcome domestic abuse

Until last month, John Bredeson said, he thought about domestic violence as much as anyone.

He knew it was a problem.

But he never imagined his daughter, Laura Taft, 29, and her 5-week-old son, C.J. Wall, would have their lives ended by it.

Taft's boyfriend, Craig Wall Sr., was charged with Taft's Feb. 17 murder and is a suspect in the death of their son, who died 10 days earlier.

Now, Bredeson said, he wants to do whatever he can to keep similar tragedies from happening.

"I want to make her death mean something to me and the community," he said.

He wants others to feel his anger and resolve, without suffering his grief firsthand.

The Pinellas County Domestic Violence Task Force is behind him all the way.

Bredeson and more than 50 others gathered Sunday night outside the Pinellas Criminal Justice Center in Largo at the task force's annual candlelight vigil to remember his daughter and grandson, who died in Clearwater, and six other Pinellas residents who died recently from domestic violence.

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The vigil was for the most part an hour of solemn reflection, with the crowd huddling close, cupping flickering orange candles in front of the names of the dead.

But the quiet was punctuated by calls from many resonating with Bredeson's passion.

One of them was Nick Cox, regional director for the Department of Children and Families.

"You've got to look at the county, look to the government, and say, 'We've had enough of this,' " Cox said. "Hold us to our jobs."

Cox said the system is failing too many, and judges, prosecutors and neighbors need to do more to prevent and prosecute domestic violence cases.

Frieda Widera, chairwoman of the task force's fatality review team, said in 69 percent of Pinellas domestic violence cases that ended in homicides in the past decade, friends or other family members knew about prior abuse, but did not know how to intervene.

"We're all a part of this problem," Widera said. "What we want to say is it's everybody's business."

• • •

Margaret Allen, 32, one of Taft's friends who was at the vigil, said Taft lived her life like a living poem, lifting spirits wherever she went.

"Every time I saw her, I felt blessed," Allen said.

Allen said she was abused in a past relationship, and urges other women to seek help.

"My advice is to just get out. Go get help. Call a friend. There's help out there," Allen said.

Dominick Tao can be reached at (727) 580-2951 or dtao@sptimes.com

Vigil calls to overcome domestic abuse 03/07/10 [Last modified: Monday, March 8, 2010 7:47am]

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