Troopers investigate response to deadly domestic violence call
Alaska State Troopers are launching an internal investigation after a domestic violence call in Big Lake turned deadly on New Year's Day.
The victim, 37-year-old Amy Smith called Troopers for help just before 2 o'clock that morning, and just after 5:30 am, she was pronounced dead.
Her husband, 38-year-old Anthony Smith now faces murder charges in her death.
According to court documents, Anthony called 911 just before 5 a.m., saying that Amy had fallen down the stairs. But, an autopsy revealed she was strangled. It wasn't until AST checked its call records that officers realized they'd been at the home just hours earlier and left.
Now, Troopers say they're looking into why.
On a night when many were celebrating, Amy locked herself in the bathroom of her Big Lake home -- afraid of her own husband. In a 911 call early New Year's morning, Amy said Anthony was being aggressive, that she was afraid of Anthony because he was suffering from mental problems, and that she worried he would become violent, as he had in the past -- including physically assaulting her. She added that she didn't want him arrested but just wanted him to "chill out."
Suzi Pearson, executive director of Abused Women's Aid in Crisis (AWAIC) says that's a common response in domestic violence cases.
"They're really concerned about that person being taken away and having something else on their record and they love them. They don't want that kind of dynamic happening," Pearson said of domestic violence survivors.
No arrests were made when Troopers answered Amy's call. Instead, officers left, and less than three hours later she was dead.
"We have no idea really what happened, what the dynamics of that situation were, it's heartbreaking to think of what she must have gone through," Pearson said of the situation.
In a statement Wednesday, Troopers declined to comment on the department's policies when it comes to leaving an unresolved scene -- citing an internal investigation into the incident.
But a national trend in the late '90s has pushed law enforcement officers across the country to make mandatory arrests in similar cases. Alaska law requires law enforcement officers to arrest persons who the officer has probable cause to believe have committed domestic violence or have violated a domestic violence protective order.
"They do have to assess the situation for a perpetrator and look to who is the guilty party and make a decision and make an arrest," Pearson said.
It's unclear what AST's assessment might have looked like that night. But, court documents show this wasn't Troopers' first trip to the residence. In fact, AST had performed welfare checks there twice in the last month at the request of concerned family members.
Amy's parents, Eddie and Chris Moore, were among them.
"We didn't find out that Amy had died until the next afternoon. And sadly, we believe that the first call should be to 911 and the second should be to us, and we never have heard from the other side," Eddie Moore said of Troopers' response.
"That says a lot right there," Amy's mother, Chris Moore, added.
Now, as the couple faces their daughter's alleged murderer in court, they're still waiting to find out just what happened after Amy called for help that night.
Pearson says Anchorage Police will escort a victim to the AWAIC shelter, regardless of whether police make an arrest. KTVA asked Troopers whether Amy was offered a ride to a shelter that night. AST says it won't likely have an answer before Thursday.
AWAIC (Abused Women's Aid in Crisis) provides crisis intervention, case management and advocacy for women in abusive relationships. Learn more about their services and how to contact them here. Alaska Family Services, which services the Mat-Su, can be found here.
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