Remembrance vigil to be held

Published 10:09 am Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Some say that time heals all wounds. Twenty years has passed since Madeline Gearheart-Mitchell was murdered by her estranged husband. While time has passed, the family and friends of Madeline Gearheart-Mitchell still feel the loss.

According to a press release, “The events that ultimately led to Madeline’s death reached a tipping point July 28, 1998, when Madeline made the decision that she had taken all the mental and physical abuse she could possibly endure. Madeline took her two young daughters and left the home she shared with her husband.”

“Madeline and her girls spent that night with a friend. The next day, as Madeline was leaving work, her estranged husband appeared. He attempted to pull Madeline from her vehicle, telling her that he loved her and wanted her and the girls to come back home to him.

Madeline’s co-workers witnessed this incident and immediately called the police. He was arrested; charged with assault and battery and attempting to elude police officers. The court issued a protective order against Madeline’s estranged husband. The next day bond was set and he was released. That day in court, Madeline stated to the Victim Witness Director that she knew he would kill her. Calls were made to every Domestic Violence shelter in the state. There was room for Madeline, but not her two girls. Madeline decided to stay with a friend several counties away” the release cited.

The release went on to say, “Days later, Madeline arrived at work to find her estranged husband on the roof of her building. Co-workers called the police. Again, he was arrested and brought back to court for violation of the protective order. He was released on the original bond. Several days later, while waiting at a stoplight, he ran toward Madeline’s car, shouting for her to come home. He was arrested a third time and brought back to court. This time a more substantial bond was set and he was incarcerated.”

The press release stated, “Madeline moved back to the Farmville area, so that the girls could attend school and be close to family. The Farmville Police were called each day to escort her as she left work, to prevent more incidents from occurring. The Longwood Campus Police checked on Madeline and the girls on a regular basis, both day and night.”

On the day of court, Madeline arrived at the courthouse to find her estranged husband standing in the hall, waiting for her. It was then she learned that he had been bonded the previous day. Madeline had not been notified of his release. Following court, Madeline and the Victim Witness Director spoke daily, trying to help ensure their safety.

On Sept. 6, 1998, her estranged husband went to Madeline’s apartment, broke in through a window, and ordered his two young daughters outside. He shot and killed Madeline and then himself.

Southside Center for Violence Prevention/Madeline’s House is hosting a remembrance vigil on Thursday, Sept. 6, to mark the 20th anniversary of Madeline’s senseless death. The vigil will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Wilck’s Lake, Wilck’s Lake Isle, Farmville, followed by a candlelight ceremony at 7:30 p.m. The release cited, “We welcome the community, leadership from the surrounding counties, friends, and family of Madeline to come out to remember her life and to bring awareness to the issues of domestic violence that persist in our community.”