Man in wheelchair in police station

Larry Belcher is taken to jail after being sentenced to 3 years for shooting Diona Clark twice near the heart, and detaining her 14 years ago. 

The first bullet entered under her left arm. The second bullet entered her left breast – inches from her heart – after grazing her hand which required microsurgery, collapsed her lung, and chipped her rib.

Diona Clark suffered this gruesome attack from her ex-boyfriend September 2005. Miraculously, she survived and is organizing the Fourth Annual Speak Up Speak Out: Domestic Violence Survivors Conference October 26 from 10am-1pm at the Columbus Health Department at 240 Parsons Road in Columbus.

Her ex, Larry Belcher, was sentenced to three years in prison this May, for nearly killing her 14 years ago. Clark told the court, “I don’t think he is remorseful for what he has done to me.” The judge rejected Belcher’s assertion that he may have been the victim, since Belcher had brought his gun to her house upset because she broke up with him.

Clark said Belcher showed her the gun. He said he would kill himself. Clark tried to persuade him not to kill himself, and then to let her go. He shot her as she tried to leave, and then shot himself as she ran calling for help.

Lundy Bancroft, author of an Amazon #1 bestseller Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, said, “There is no doubt in my mind that (Belcher) went there to kill (Clark) because he would not accept her right to live a separate life from him.”

Bancroft explained “abusers rarely kill themselves without at least attempting harm on their partners” because in an abuser’s mind everything is about winning and losing, and the woman is not seen as having equal rights – her purpose is to satisfy his needs.

“The attitude abusers exhibit in this type of violence when women attempt to leave their partners is, ‘She must have to pay for my unhappiness,’” Bancroft said.

Police didn’t prioritize charging Belcher with attempted murder of her, a black woman, or even felonious assault and the statute of limitations expired. Belcher remains in a wheelchair and disabled.

Police historically did not treat domestic violence as a crime, but as a private matter. Entrenched sexist bias is compounded by race. Black women are “two and a half times more likely to be murdered by men than their white counterparts” according to the Institute For Women’s Policy Research, and non-white female victims of intimate partner violence are less likely to have their perpetrators arrested by police, according to the study “Race and the Likelihood of Intimate Partner Violence Arrest and Dual Arrest.”

The evidence was destroyed by the police so the prosecutor accepted the plea to abduction while Belcher was charged with the more serious offense of kidnapping that would have had a maximum sentence of 11 years. The court then imposed the maximum 3-year sentence for abduction. Clark expressed gratitude that Belcher got prison time but said the maximum sentence for attempted murder would have been more appropriate.

Charges were only filed at all after Clark pushed the police for what she said felt like over a year, and thanks to the support of Ohio State Representative Bernadine Kennedy Kent. Clark said Rep. Kent arranged a meeting with Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs, now retired, who apologized that nothing could be done because the statute of limitations had expired.

According to Clark, Rep. Kent then said to Chief Jacobs, “‘I found kidnapping in her report, and the statute of limitations has not expired. If I can find something like this, certainly you can find something to charge him with.’”

Shortly after this the police charged Belcher with kidnapping.

But the police did not take Rep. Kent’s encouragement, spelled out in a follow up letter, to implement a “procedure when an alleged violent perpetrator initially considered to be medically incompetent to arrest and charge then becomes medically competent to arrest and charge well within the statute of limitation.”

Ron O’Brien, prosecutor in the case, said, “The police department should have and does have, I presume, some sort of policy to ensure that that sort of follow up does happen.”

But as 10TV/WBNS reported two years ago, “The department says they were not aware of any policy but planned to look into it,” and Columbus Police Division Spokesperson Chantay Boxill said recently she was not aware of any such policy or any efforts to implement that policy.

Clark said, “I hope it wasn’t anything racial. I want to believe it was just a loophole. I would hope there is something they are working on to put in place so this wouldn’t happen again. I would hate to see this same thing happening again.”

According to Giffords Law Center, “Guns kept in the home are more likely to be involved in a fatal or nonfatal unintentional shooting, criminal assault or suicide attempt than to be used to injure or kill in self-defense. Rather than conferring protection, guns in the home are associated with an increased risk of homicide by a family member or intimate acquaintance.”

Clark started Liv Out Loud Enterprises which works to “educate, empower and prevent” domestic violence. She is the author of the book Survival is Victory and was a vocal proponent of Ohio House Bill 1 of the 132rd Ohio General Assembly which came into effect July 2018 and makes non-married couples eligible for restraining orders against abusive partners. Find Liv Out Loud at October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month.

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