Nicole Meier had told co-workers she was afraid to meet with her ex-boyfriend alone at his townhouse, where their bodies were found this week in what police called a murder-suicide. She was not the first woman to fear him.
Co-workers overheard Nicole Meier telling Jesse Oakley by phone Monday that she wanted to meet somewhere public to collect the back rent he owed her on the Circle Pines townhouse they once shared.
After hanging up, she confided that she was afraid to meet her ex-boyfriend alone at his home.
But Meier went there anyway, and when she didn't show up for work the next day, co-workers called 911. Centennial Lakes police forced their way into 503 Village Parkway and found the bodies of Meier, 26, and Oakley, 36. Authorities said Friday that Oakley shot her and then turned the gun on himself.
Police and domestic abuse advocates say it was a tragic repeat of something they see all too often. In Anoka County alone, 12 of the 18 homicides that occurred since 2007 stemmed from domestic violence.
Meier called police twice last summer, to stand by while she moved out. She told an officer she was tired of Oakley's "physical and mental abuse," but she declined to show the evidence she said she had on her cell phone.
Anoka County Sheriff James Stuart said Friday that she could have asked again this week for an escort.
"It's not a waste of our time; that's why we're here." he said. "If your instinct is telling you to call, call."
Meier was not the first woman to fear Oakley.
In Dakota County, his ex-wife had a protective order against him, set to expire next month. She cited a half-dozen incidents in which he allegedly threatened to kill her or himself. She said he sent her more than 1,800 e-mails, showed up at her door and threatened to kill himself there, and called so often that she had to take the phone off the hook at work and home.
According to court records, Oakley violated the protective order in December. Police said they found notes in his home indicating he was "obsessed" with both his ex-wife and Meier.
The order said he had to give up his guns, though police found two 9-millimeter handguns in his town house. One they found between couch cushions. The other they found near the bodies where they lay in a corridor.
At a news conference Friday, Centennial Lakes Police Chief Robert Shellum said Meier had taken some guns away from Oakley because of the ex-wife's protection order.
Stuart said investigators learned that Meier had broken up with Oakley in mid-2010. She was dating someone else, Shellum said.
A bloody week
This week was a bloody one in Minnesota for victims of domestic violence. A Zumbrota woman was shot by her estranged husband Monday when she returned to their house to retrieve property. A police escort who shot and killed the man likely saved her life, authorities say.
On Friday, Aisha Baig, 35, of Maple Grove, was charged with second-degree attempted murder for allegedly stabbing her husband in a drunken rage. He likely will be paralyzed, charges said.
This also was the week the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women released its 2010 Femicide Report. Last year, 28 women, men and children died as a result of domestic violence, the report said, adding that, of those, 67 percent had left or were trying to leave their abuser.
Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo said police in his jurisdiction are trying to reduce domestic murders by doing "lethality assessments." These are checklists designed to gauge a domestic abuse victim's risk of being killed by the abuser. Factors include whether an abuser has a gun and whether an abuser has threatened to kill the victim.
Palumbo said that officers in the county have done 117 assessments since September, when they began using the tool. Of the 117 victims assessed, 81, or 69 percent, were deemed to be facing a high risk of being killed.
He said Meier's calls for an escort last summer would not have triggered such an assessment, even if the tool had been in use then, because she wasn't making a complaint of domestic violence.
Connie Moore, executive director of Alexandra House, which provides shelter and other services for domestic violence victims, said that it's important to look for solutions rather than second-guess the actions of any particular victim.
"At this point we can all ask questions: 'How did this happen? Why did she go there?'" she said. "Instead of asking the questions and trying to find blame, let's look at 'What do we do moving forward? What are the things we can do to be more effective at providing safety to victims of domestic violence?'"