A map of Alaska with the Kodiak region highlighted.
Initiative: Council on Domestic Violence
Organization: Kodiak Women's Resource and Crisis Center
City: Kodiak
Region: Kodiak
Program Area: Human Services \ Domestic violence
Grants Received:
2015: $40,000  2002: $45,350
2006: $8,356

Striving to break the cycle of abuse

Mission Statement
Kodiak Women's Resource Center

Kodiak Women's Resource and Crisis Center (KWRCC) helps women develop inner strength to achieve their full potential. We are dedicated to the prevention and elimination of domestic violence and sexual assault by providing education and promoting community awareness. KWRCC provides resources and crisis services to the community, as well as shelter for women and their children who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
My client told me he didn't kill the woman. Days later her jeans and a pink sneaker washed up on shore.

My client was accused of being hired by a husband to kill his wife. My client was supposed to have called the woman at the Kodiak Women's Resource Center, where she worked, and told her he had information that would help in the nasty custody battle she was having with her husband. Later that evening the woman left her two children with her mother and got into my client's van. She never returned.

My client told me the woman got out of his van. He
didn't know where she went. The crack in the side window of his van had not been caused by a woman kicking and struggling. Her earring had been planted by the police after their first search of his van turned up nothing.

No one ever saw the woman again.

It's been nearly 20 years since the woman disappeared and still, I remember well the evidence I presented and the arguments I made before the court to defend my client. It was my first murder case. It was also my last murder case. It was a case without a body, a case built on circumstantial evidence and hearsay. I thought I should be able to persuade the jury that there wasn't enough evidence to convict my client. But I couldn't. The jury found my client guilty of first degree murder and kidnapping.

I was pregnant with my first child when the murder case went to trial. Yet I never connected the child growing inside of me with the children who no longer had a mother. I didn't think about the circumstances that lead the woman to take refuge at the Kodiak Women's Resource Center. I didn't think about the woman's mother waiting for her daughter to return that evening. Without children of my own it was easier for me to keep my personal life separate from the professional; to hold at bay worries that could distract me from my job—to defend my client.

Instead, I found an expert to testify that the van window had been broken much earlier. I wrote motions to keep the women of the Kodiak Women's Resource Center from testifying in court—which the judge denied. I did all I could think of to defend my client. Even now, when I am no longer his lawyer and relieved of all attorney client privilege, I find myself hedging, unwilling to call him a murderer, even though he's exhausted all appeals and remains judged one. It is the residual affect of having been his attorney.

I do not practice criminal law anymore. For the last 17 years I've been a mother and writer. My focus has changed from defending clients accused of crimes to raising children. I have spent these last years becoming attuned to the nuances of my children's passage through life. I spend much of my time discerning their hopes and aspirations, their troubles and worries. I think back on my time as a defense lawyer and my first murder case. I marvel at the blinders that I wore and the focus I had. Looking back, I wonder about the children and what their lives have been like.

Pamela Cravez is an Anchorage based writer and editor who practiced criminal law in the 1980s and is at work on a legal thriller.