GONZALES — Shirley Neal is on a mission to tell women involved in domestic violence situations “that there is another way.”
Neal, whose daughter Jackie Neal was shot and killed by her former boyfriend on March 10, 2005, inside a Baton Rouge salon, said she had no idea her daughter’s ex-boyfriend was abusing her.
Neal talked about her daughter’s death during Monday’s Take Back the Night program in Jambalaya Park, which was attended by more than 100 people.
Standing at the microphone next to her son, Larry Neal, Jackie Neal pleaded for anyone in a domestic violence situation “to tell somebody.
“If you know anybody going through this, tell them there is help out there,” she said.
Shirley Neal said her daughter never told her she was being abused.
“If I would have only known, I could have done something,” she said.
She said that after her daughter’s death, one of her daughter’s friends told her that the ex-boyfriend, James White, took Jackie Neal to Whiskey Bay on her birthday and “beat her on the head with a pistol.
“When her daddy asked her what happened because she was wearing dark shades, she said she ran into something,” Jackie Neal said. “We had no idea what was going on.”
Neal said her daughter, a Baton Rouge blues musician, was out of town for more than a week before she was killed.
On the morning of her shooting, White called Shirley Neal asking to have breakfast, Shirley Neal said. “I said no and he got mad and hung up the phone.”
Later that day, Shirley Neal said she saw her daughter and tried to talk to her, but “she kept saying she had to be somewhere at 6:15.”
She was shot at 6:20 p.m. that day, Jackie Neal said.
White was sentenced to life plus 50 years in prison as part of a plea deal finalized in 2006. He also shot a woman in the salon, but she survived.
“I just don’t know why this is going on,” she said. “There is a better way to live and young women don’t have to live like this.
“Know that there’s help out there and please tell somebody,” Neal said.
Capital Area Violence Intervention Center’s Ascension Advocate Kim Brown said that while Louisiana has moved from first in the nation in domestic violence to fourth in recent years, “there’s still a long way to go.”
She said 52 domestic violence-related deaths were reported in Louisiana from September 2011 to September 2012. No domestic violence deaths were reported in Ascension Parish during that time, she said.
Brown praised the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office and Gonzales Police Department for “having a zero tolerance policy when it comes to domestic violence cases.”
After Neal’s talk, members of the East Ascension High School Interact Club lit 10 candles to acknowledge the people who have been affected by violent crimes against women in the past year.
One candle was lit to represented the 583 women and children who have sought refuge at Zonta House Shelter in Baton Rouge since October 2011.
The students also read out the names of 52 Louisiana residents who died at the hands of a domestic partner, Brown said.
Susan Hamilton, director of the Ascension Counseling Center in Gonzales, said any Ascension Parish residents dealing with domestic violence can get free services at the Gonzales center.
The CAVIC will hold a Take Back the Night candle ceremony at 6 p.m. Sunday at the LSU Tower and the Iberville Parish ceremony will held at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Iberville Parish Courthouse, Brown said.
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