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 executive director of the Cherokee Family Violence Center pored over the court files of Shannon Lawrence, the 25-year-old Canton woman who died after .

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 .

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 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, .

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.

Stay tuned to canton-ga.patch.com, alpharetta.patch.com and cumming.patch.com for updates on this story.

Georgia Voter June 07, 2011 at 04:48 PM
I agree that the system totally failed this family. I hope that in some way this tragedy inspires some changes in the system, so that lives can be saved in the future.
Laura June 07, 2011 at 08:53 PM
This was my friend that was killed by such an awful man. I am so ashamed at Georgia's court systems. When she pleaded with the courts to protect her and nothing was done...now look...we've lost a great person, amazing friend, and loving mother of 2 children. Thank you for taking on this case and hopefully the court system will see the problem with lessening orders and ignoring a woman's fearful cry for help.
Georgia Voter June 07, 2011 at 11:51 PM
Laura, I am so sorry for your loss. It should not have happened.
brian June 08, 2011 at 12:07 AM
Thank you for reporting on this. I was afraid that no one would see this side of things. please fix the naming issue in the last paragraph.
Rodney Thrash June 08, 2011 at 12:26 AM
Thanks for pointing that out, Brian!
Eric June 08, 2011 at 05:21 PM
Shannon and I met in November and began dating in December these past 6 months getting to know her and her family have been some of the happiest in my life. She had been trying every legal avenue she could to stop this aggression against her and her children. She was one of the most compassionate, giving people I have ever met. Her love for her faith, her family, her friends, and me has been evident in all her actions.
Nancy June 08, 2011 at 09:45 PM
I minister to Single Moms every day and hear how badly the system fails them. Thank you Meg Rogers of CFVC for stepping forward on behalf of the memory of Shannon and so many others that need help. I hope the judges and courts will listen. Our courts and laws are often lop sided and unfair and a woman has to be homeless and/or physically harmed before anyone steps in to help. It's a tragedy and we should all be ashamed.


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