January 28, 2010
Last week, Bulos (Paul) Zumont pled not guilty to charges of first degree murder and arson in the murder of Jennifer Schipsi in mid October 2009. A probation violation charge will be added later. His probation stems from an earlier conviction on domestic violence. Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence provided services to Jennifer and grieve the loss of her life.
In an effort to support Jennifer’s family, our staff and volunteers attend criminal hearings in this matter. My personal attendance has given me an intimate view of the grief experienced by a family that has lost a loved one to domestic violence. Often in reading the newspaper about violent deaths, I feel empathy but I go about my business of living, with all the messes and joy life can bring. This time is different. I am witnessing the effects of murder.
The criminal justice system is cold and harsh at best. Comfort for families of murder victims is not the first priority. Their job is to get to the truth, which often brings ugly revelations. The prosecutor in this case, Charles Gillingham is top notch. He is professional and forthcoming. You sense that he knows what he is doing. Unfortunately, what he has to report is gruesome. He cannot sugarcoat the truth.
But another truth exists. This family is in agony. They look like lost souls not knowing what will happen next to exacerbate their grief. For the family of a murder victim new, fresh pain comes constantly. It must be unbearable. As I watch the prosecutor discuss aspects of the case, I see the pins family members wear. Jennifer’s smiling face on the pin reminds us that she was not just a murder victim; she was a vibrant, loving and giving person. The juxtaposition of hearing the grotesque details of her death while looking at the face on the pin is heart wrenching. Watching the expressions on the faces of family members provide the missing link.
If Zumont is found guilty of murder, another charge should be added to the list of charges against him – theft. When Paul Zumont killed Jennifer, he stole a piece of her mother, father, aunts and uncles. He stole a piece from friends and he stole a piece from our community. No one will be the same, certainly not the family nor friends or even those of us who provide services to victims of domestic violence and their children.
This trial will expose the devastation of domestic violence. Unfortunately, it won’t be unusual to us. We see it day after day at Next Door. Now the community needs to see it as well. We made a commitment to raise the shades in homes where domestic violence wreaks havoc on people. We cannot go back and roll them down. Bringing light to the issue, as difficult as it is, sanitizes the space. Light helps us to assess the damage and correct it. Ultimately, we will be a better community for it.
We need your help to bring the light to this case. We want to pack the courtroom in honor of Jennifer, bear witness to her life and demonstrate support for the family. We cannot do this alone. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you can help.