Advocate: System Failed Slain Mom
After a Cumming man allegedly shot a Canton woman in front of their children Sunday, the Cherokee Family Violence Center wants to revisit the judicial process meant to protect victims of domestic violence.
The files, Meg Rogers said, revealed a woman who was afraid.
"She’s reporting it to law enforcement," she said. "She’s reporting it to the court. She says in her court pleadings he has guns" and asks authorities to remove all weapons from her ex-boyfriend's Cumming home.
That ex-boyfriend, 25-year-old Christopher Erdman, is now in the Fulton County Jail, accused of shooting Lawrence four times in the face and neck in front of their children.
For more than 25 years, the Cherokee Family Violence Center in Canton has assisted battered women. Lawrence was one of them, according to records in Forsyth County.
"So often," Rogers said, "people ask, ‘Oh, why don’t they leave? Why didn’t they call the police? Why didn’t she get a restraining order?'
"We could not have asked for anybody to have done more than what it looks like she did. This woman was really let down by the system."
The death of Lawrence—one of several deadly incidents blamed on domestic violence across metro Atlanta this past weekend—has prompted the Cherokee Family Violence Center to call for a discussion with judges, prosecutors and law enforcement about ways to better protect victims of domestic violence.
No meeting has been scheduled yet, but Rogers said protective orders have to be stringent. Lawrence had one in Forsyth County that was dismissed in March for a weaker, consent restraining order in Cherokee. Erdman, Lawrence and their attorneys all agreed to it, as indicated by their initials in court filings.
Three Fridays ago, Lawrence told the Cherokee County Superior Court that she feared for her safety. Under the protective order, the consequences are more severe and Erdman would have been arrested for aggravated stalking.
But with the consent restraining order, Erdman was just summoned to appear before Cherokee County Superior Court Judge Anthony Baker on June 15—next Wednesday.
It wasn't the only missed opportunity authorities had to protect Lawrence, Rogers said.
Baker gave Erdman, who served Lawrence with paternity papers in January, "liberal" visitation with the couple's children on the same day the consent restraining order went into effect.
"I mean this man, according to Shannon’s petition, was sending a 100 emails, stalking her, violating orders, had access to guns, had a concealed weapons permit," Rogers said. "We certainly want to look at our protocol in Cherokee County, at the way abusers can use the judicial system to gain access to victims."
Baker is out of town and could not be reached for comment. Rogers said she doesn't blame anyone in particular.
"Where I see where the system really confused this issue is treating this just like any normal civil case," she said. "Almost ignoring the domestic violence and the stalking."
In addition to murder, Erdman faces a number of other charges: felony murder, aggravated assault with a weapon, tampering with evidence, possession of a firearm during commission of a felony and two counts of cruelty to children.