Monday, July 10, 2017

Reader Spotlight: Kris Anglin Barney

This, my second Reader Spotlight, is both heart-breaking and inspiring...and is one I have had in the works for quite some time. This lady is actually the impetus for doing a spotlight on the blog, if I'm being truly honest with you. But it's one that I wanted to make sure I did right...I couldn't half-ass it in any way. Her story deserves far more than that, so the writing and publishing of it has been a long time in the making. 

I met Kris Barney when she moved across the street from me. An impeccably dressed, sassy lady from Louisiana...I knew I wanted to be her friend from the first day we properly met. That basically translates to me acting like a comedic jackass in the hopes of wooing her to hang out. Once I'd got to know her a bit, I learned of her story...and I witnessed her decision to yet again use her pain and resiliency to help other people...and I found it truly inspiring. Hopefully this Reader Spotlight will reach out to someone who needs to hear it. 

So meet my friend Kris, one of the strongest women I know.

(warning: this post is long and does contain violence but it's for a good reason)

T&T: Hello Kris!! Why don't you tell us a little about yourself? 

Kris: Ok! My name is Kris Anglin Barney and I grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana. I am a military wife and mom and have traveled the world for the  past 18 yrs with my husband and children. I am a Domestic Violence advocate and resiliency speaker and I like to travel around telling my own story of DV and how I survived and how I am a continuous work in progress trying to heal after my 3 yr old daughter Miranda was murdered by my ex-husband and her father back in 1999. At the same time, another woman, Michelle Riley, was also murdered by Charles Salley. She was the mother of 2 young daughters at the time. I have made it my life's mission to be not only the voice for Miranda and Michelle, but for all women who may be suffering from abusive relationships who may be too afraid to leave. I want to to be the lighthouse in their ocean of abuse and let the victims know that they too, can and will survive.

T&T: You lived through such a horrifying ordeal that deeply impacted your life and it's purpose. Would you care to share your story with us? 

Kris: It is a long story, and I know it is not easy to sit through and I know it's uncomfortable. I am going to share with you a personal tragedy that changed my life forever and the lives of my family and everyone we knew. I want to warn you that this is not a pleasant story to tell but I tell it in hopes of helping someone else find their way through this life no matter how crazy or hard it may be. 

Back in 1996 I was in the process of leaving a very unhealthy relationship. I was divorcing my husband for mental abuse, threatening behavior and cheating. I was in fear for my life and the life of our 3 year old daughter Miranda so much so, that I had to obtain a restraining order after telling him to leave the house. His name was Charles Salley. And he was a Bossier City firefighter/paramedic in Bossier City Louisiana.

From the moment I asked Charles to leave our home, he began harassing me constantly. First it began with phone calls every day, all hours of the day and night. He made it his life’s mission to stalk me even using the Bossier City ambulance he was driving to follow me. He would call me early in the morning and give me a blow by blow of what I had done the night before. Who I was with and where I went. 

It became so exhausting and so scary that I decided to press charges to have him arrested for stalking and for violating the protective order. I had to document every single thing that happened from the ungodly amount of phone calls to the time we exchanged Miranda and every conversation and every unexpected visit. 

In the meantime we were fighting over custody. I wanted supervised visitation for our daughter and he wanted full custody. It was nasty and terrifying. I was terrified for her life and mine and I could not convince a judge that Charles was DANGEROUS. He would take her and not return her at the designated time. He would have her and then he would call me and say he was going to kill her and then himself. 

After many months of this and after documenting everything and after nearly losing my job,  I finally had enough evidence to have Charles arrested for stalking. After months and months of calling the police, after pleading with his boss to please talk to him and hold him accountable, and after trying for months to get his parents to talk to him, he was finally in jail and he was going to realize I was not going to take anymore of his harassment. 

Within an hour of being arrested, he posted bail and was outside my house sitting in his truck watching. Again…another pat on the back and sent on his way. NO ONE listened to me, no one in authority would listen. NO ONE would believe that this man was dangerous. You see…with Charles being a member of the Bossier Parish fire dept. he got special treatment. He was a member of “the brotherhood”. He was free as a bird to do anything he wanted and to terrorize at will. He used the uniform and the ambulance to inflict a fear like you’ve never known and they allowed it. I thought the torture would never stop, I was always on high alert, he was always stalking, threatening and lurking outside my home and my backyard. He was EVERYWHERE!

It wasn’t until he met someone else that the torment somewhat subsided. I too, had met someone and was trying to live a normal life. Things became quiet and for the first time in a year I thought we had finally made it to a point where we were able to get along. He turned his attention to a new woman and I was in the process of remarrying. I am not going to lie, I was so relieved he was leaving me alone. He had moved on to another victim. Her name was Michelle. She was a respiratory therapist at one of the hospitals in Bossier City and the mother of 2 teenage daughters. 

After about 6 months, their relationship started to deteriorate. Later I found out that she too became afraid of Charles but was too afraid to cross him. She was too afraid of what he might do. He had become possessive, delusional and overall too controlling and she felt bullied into doing things she was not comfortable with. Michelle contacted his parole officer, he was put on paid leave and encouraged to see a doctor. After she contacted his parole officer, he was furious, his behavior once again became erratic and increasingly unpredictable. He threatened to kill her and then himself. 

During the time this was all happening I had been working for the Caddo Parish Tax Assessor’s office and I had finally gained my Deputy Assessors certification. I had recently gotten married to my husband, Jeff and we were headed to New Orleans for my pinning ceremony. New Orleans is about 6 hours south of Shreveport. Since Charles had joint custody, I was forced by the judge to leave Miranda in his care until my return 4 days later. It was gut wrenching having to turn around and leave her and it turned out to be the biggest mistake of my entire life. 

On a cold Tuesday evening, January 12, 1999 Charles picked Miranda up from daycare and drove to the hospital where Michelle worked. Michelle was in a staff meeting with a bunch of her co workers and was due to leave the building at 5pm. Charles pulled into the parking lot but parked his vehicle on the other side of the building so as not to be seen by Michelle as she was leaving. As Michelle was walking out surrounded by her co workers, Charles confronts her and begs her for just one minute of her time. She refuses, she tells him he’s not supposed to be there, he’s violating her restraining order. If he didn’t leave, she was calling the police. Charles pulls out a 38 Smith and Wesson hand gun that he got from his father and shot Michelle point blank in the face 3 times. Michelle drops to the ground dead and unrecognizable.

Charles drags her lifeless body to a nearby median in the parking lot. He then calmly walks to the truck where he left Miranda sitting alone. He carries her from the vehicle to where Michelle’s dead body lay. He holds Miranda on his lap, whispers something in her ear, then shoots her in the temple. He turns her over and shoots her again in the other temple. He lays Miranda’s body next to Michelle’s. He then pulls out a hunting knife and begins to stab Michelle over and over and over, slicing and mutilating her body. 

Police were on the scene within 2 minutes. The ambulances were there waiting to try and get to the victims, but Charles refused to put down his weapon. He brought his gun up slowly and pointed it at police. The officers had no choice but to shoot. After 14 rounds, Charles was dead. He had killed my only child. He had taken a precious life that was not his to take. He had taken the mother of 2 young girls. The scene was like nothing anyone could comprehend. None of us would ever be the same. 

Charles murdered Miranda just 4 days shy of her 4th birthday. I had already planned her party and sent out the invitations. 

At 9:30 that Tuesday night, I got the call from the Chaplain of the Bossier City Fire Department that Miranda was dead. And thus began the process of grief, acceptance and healing. 

T&T: Thank you for sharing your story with us. I'm sure that it's not an easy one to tell regardless of how many times you tell it. The Passion that brought about me asking you to "speak" to the blog today is your work as a Domestic Violence Advocate and Resiliency Speaker. What are the biggest nuggets of wisdom you need to get out to the world? 

Kris: The best advice I can give as a DV advocate and resiliency speaker is:

To a Victim
  • Please take advantage of your resources. There are many out there and readily available JUST FOR YOU! 
  • DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. The power of documentation is essential when trying to get an arrest or conviction. I can't stress this enough. There always needs to be a timeline of events, when you are harassed, followed, terrorized, beaten, called numerous times at work and home, This also goes for your children and pets. DOCUMENT EVERYTHING.  Keep track of all text messages too, mail and voice mail. 
  • Keep a bag packed with birth certificates and important documents, restraining orders, extra clothes for you and your children and cash in case you need to flee instantly. Keep this in a safe place or a trusted friends place. Hide car keys under the seat or keep a set on you at all times so that you don't have to go back inside to get them once you try to escape.
  • YOU WILL survive and learn to navigate this world on your own. It may be challenging but you can do it. NO ONE deserves to be abused in ANY way, form or fashion. Not YOU or your CHILDREN.
  • Abuse is a LEARNED BEHAVIOR. Your abuser learned to abuse. It is not "in their blood" or "inherited".
  • And RELIGIOUS beliefs DO NOT give any man the right to beat or abuse his wife or children. NEVER let law enforcement leave you alone if your husband or significant other claims it is his religious right. If the police do not help you with this, it is pure negligence on their part. 
  • Most of all....abuse is NOT YOUR FAULT. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. An abuser makes the choice to abuse. It is not your fault, or anyone else. It is a CHOICE HE IS MAKING. 
To all others: Friends, family, police officers, judges, and attorneys

  • TAKE THE VICTIM SERIOUSLY! If she says she is afraid, BELIEVE HER. 
  • Educate yourselves on how to respond and communicate with a victim. Many times, the victim has been stripped of all identity and self confidence that she no longer knows who she is anymore. Many times, when someone is exposed to trauma and years of abuse, the brain rewires itself and the thought processes of the victim have been changed so significantly that what may seem like high risk situations to most of us, are only insignificant risks to a victim. BE PATIENT! BE KIND!
  • Get her to a safe place if she and her children call for help. She may go back to him. KEEP GOING BACK TO HELP HER! Some women have been beaten so often and severely that their fear mechanism has been dulled. A lot of times women go back for financial reasons, hope and the thought that maybe he will change.
  • To police officers: DO YOUR JOB. Assault is a crime. Even if she does not want him arrested for assaulting her, ARREST HIM.
  • Attorneys and Judges: if she says he is dangerous, BELIEVE HER! No one knows her abuser better than she does. DO NOT make her have to repeat it or make numerous police reports. IF YOU KNOW HE IS AND SHE IS TELLING YOU HE IS DANGEROUS, ARREST HIM  and keep him in jail til a trial is set. 
  • And also: Sometimes a simple “I am so sorry” is best. Or just a heartfelt and sincere hug is comfort enough. In reality, you don’t have to say anything, because there is absolutely nothing you can say at that particular moment that could soothe someone who is in the throws of grief. 

T&T: Since this is a book blog, do you have any book recommendations for my readers?

Kris: My very favorite book that I have read a couple of times is: The Gift of Fear: By Gavin De Becker. This book literally changed my life and how I view everyone around me, including fellow victims/SURVIVORS. Our stories are all unique and each have suffered different traumas but this book hits ALL points of Domestic Abuse. No one walks away from this book having not learned a plethora of great things. I am also in the process of reading Dangerous Exits: Escaping Abusive Relationships in Rural America by Walter S. DeKeseredy and Martin D. Schwartz. This was a gift to me from a lovely friend who invited me to speak at Minot State University. It reflects the difficulty and challenges ALL women face when leaving abusive relationships, from economic blackmail to psychological mistreatment. " challenges the perception that rural communities are safe havens from the brutality of urban living."

Thank you so much Kris for letting me interview you for the blog, and for putting yourself and your pain out there in the hopes of helping others. If you'd like to follow Kris' efforts to get the word out, and remember Miranda, please follow her Miranda Faith Memorial Page on Facebook. You can also watch her give a very moving talk at Minot State University on YouTube Here. And if you or anyone you know needs help...or you'd like to get involved in anyway...please check out the National Domestic Violence Hotline's website here

I know this was a long post, and only included two book recommendations, but I want to help give a voice to people's passions...and this story is a very important one to share. 💛

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