When Love Turns Deadly

Remembered / Kesha Curtis’ daughters, colleagues Vera Holder and Bonnie Jaros hang paper cranes on a cherry tree planted in her honor. It was Curtis’ favorite. / Liz Monroy / el Don
Remembered / Kesha Curtis’ daughters, colleagues Vera Holder and Bonnie Jaros hang paper cranes on a cherry tree planted in her honor. It was Curtis’ favorite. / Liz Monroy / el Don

Three years ago SAC professor Kesha Curtis was killed by her husband

By Martin Syjuco

[dropcap]B[/dropcap]eside a solitary cherry tree growing in the garden on the northeast end of campus gathered a beloved professor’s family, colleagues and friends.

Her two daughters, now closer to womanhood than the last time she saw them, clung tightly to their grandparents, Diana and Michael Smith.

At the end of May, as the semester wound down, Kesha Curtis’ life was celebrated with a posthumous certificate from a rigorous teaching program she never had the chance to see through.

Curtis died three years ago, a victim of domestic violence.

By the time Curtis decided to break free from an unhappy marriage, it was too late. Her daughters were orphaned in a murder-suicide that rocked the Santa Ana College community.

The recent high-profile fallout from a shocking video of NFL player Ray Rice knocking his then-fiancée Janay Palmer unconscious with a vicious punch, revealed from surveillance footage obtained by TMZ, has forced a crime inflicted on at least four women each day into everyday conversation.

Domestic violence is dominating the headlines.

Once again, Americans confront spousal abuse, triggered by graphic images that have shocked, enraged and saddened the nation.

“When you simply read text of an incident, it’s black and white, void of emotion. But when it is visual or audible it affects us emotionally and sears into our consciousness. It’s visceral,” said C.W. Little Jr., chair of the communications and media studies department. “Whether it is the assassination of President Kennedy, the devastation of 9/11, or the video of a mother weeping over the loss of a child, we are confronted with reality and that evokes intense reactions that, absent these images, tend to be more passive,” said Little, who teaches a course on media, race and gender. The class analyzes how popular media distills complex identities into digestible generalities.

“Sadly, categorizing and stereotyping is easy and journalists fall prey to oversimplifying just as the general population does, often ignoring the individual behind their reporting,” Little said.

The heaviness of spousal abuse is a subject most people do not want to deal with on a daily basis, Little said. Media is consumed as much for entertainment as it is for information, he added.

[quote]“Domestic violence is a reality that too few are willing to confront. The insidiousness of this incident is that people were not outraged when the first video revealed Rice dragging Janay from the elevator. What did they think happened before the doors opened?” Little said.[/quote]

Reactions to Rice’s crime have been both encouraging and discouraging.

Keith Olbermann, an ESPN anchor, called for the heads of all those involved in what he called a cover up, acting as a stand in for the collective moral conscience. Many share his view — that the initial light punishment of a two-game suspension empowers abusive spouses.

Honored / Isaac Curtis III accepts a posthumous certificate on behalf of his sister Kesha Curtis, slain three years ago before completing the teaching program. / Liz Monroy / el Don

But in an informal curation of about 3,500 fantasy football team names, Slate’s Ben Blatt found that Beats By Ray— a pun on luxury headphone brand Beats By Dre — was the second most popular team name.

Rice’s act of violence has become both a source of outrage and cheap laughs.

Janay Palmer, the mother of Rice’s daughter, married the football star after the incident. She now carries his last name, and went on Instagram to vigorously defend her embattled husband, while attacking the media.

“THIS IS OUR LIFE! What don’t you all get? If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels,” she wrote. In the end, she added, true love prevails. Janay Rice ended the post with a shout out to the Baltimore Ravens fans, where her husband had starred since 2009.

The newly public footage compelled the Ravens to release Rice. The same team officials that accepted the suspension had planned to feature him in a lead role upon his return.

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He’s now serving an indefinite suspension. The Madden NFL video game franchise removed his likeness from its newest edition. A Baltimore restaurant offered free pizza in exchange for turning in Rice jerseys. The Ravens team store will replace Rice jerseys from Sept. 19 to Sept. 20.

Palmer-Rice is one of millions of domestic violence victims, about 1.5 million women in California alone, according to statistics compiled by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Rice is not the only active NFL player charged with abuse.

Three days after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell imposed more punitive sanctions for domestic abuse, San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald was arrested on suspicion of striking his pregnant fiancée after police found bruises on her arms and neck. Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy was convicted of assaulting and threatening to kill his girlfriend, who accused him of slamming her hand with the toilet seat before putting her in a chokehold.

McDonald is listed at 290 pounds. Hardy is 6-foot-5-inches tall and weighs 278 pounds. Both played in their team’s opening day game.

[quote]“Why is robbing a liquor store worse than beating someone down an elevator?” Professor of Communications Lance Lockwood said.[/quote]

Lockwood, who heads the campus Safe Space program, has given talks addressing violence inflicted on women and members of the LGBT community.

“There are two wrongs here. There is an assault that happens, and then a failure of the law and the league and also society to react to the assault,” he said.

For every Palmer-Rice and Christy Mack, the pornstar beaten and stabbed within inches of her life by intimate partner and professional fighter Jon “War Machine” Koppenhaver, countless more suffer in silence.

Lockwood knows. He shared office space with Curtis. They developed a deep friendship that outlasts a lifetime.

He knew Curtis wanted to leave her husband. He knew Curtis had filed for divorce. He never imagined that a man he and neighbors described as quiet and possessive would harm his best friend.

“Hindsight is 20-20. You look back on it and maybe there were signs,” Lockwood said.

Curtis did not fit the profile of a victim.

She was a high achiever, a rising star within the college faculty. At 39, the daughter of four-time Pro Bowl receiver and nine-year NFL veteran Isaac Curtis, she had the world in her hands. She had two beautiful daughters. Her students adored her. Her colleagues admired her. Her bosses praised her. She was on track for bigger things. Internal faculty chatter predicted Curtis would become a dean for the college one day.

“Kesha told me, ‘No, he’s never laid a hand on me.’ It only needs to happen once,” Lockwood recalled. Curtis had the strength and confidence to walk away.

On the eve of her murder, Lockwood asked Kesha if she wanted to take the children and stay with him until she figured out what to do next.

Kesha had told her husband she was leaving him, Lockwood knew. A day later, while his children were away, Andamo Hondo reacted with finality.




The daughter of four-time Pro Bowl receiver Isaac Curtis, Kesha Curtis was nearing completion of @One, a rigorous online teaching certification program before falling victim to domestic murder-suicide.She was a professorand department chairperson for the communications department.


Medical, mental health costs exceed $4.1 billion a year
50 percent of protection orders filed by domestic violence victims are violated
75 percent of domestic violence crimes are not reported to police
1.3 million women are physically assaulted by an intimate partner each year

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