The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

October 19, 2013

Johnson death prompts increase in domestic violence awareness

By Cass Rains, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Last week, 94 purple balloons were released into the air in honor of the lives lost in Oklahoma to domestic violence this year.

One of those balloons was for Crystal Star Johnson, who was killed Aug. 16 in Enid. Her boyfriend, Jason DWayne Lowe, has been charged in connection to her death and is being held without bond.

Johnson was remembered during a ceremony Tuesday by AdvancePierre’s Kelsey Reneau as a smart and creative employee whose coworkers were concerned about seeing signs of her abuse.

AdvancePierre has worked to raise awareness of domestic violence since Johnson’s death.

YWCA Enid Executive Director Kim Blankenship said her organization is willing to work with any business or organization to educate people about domestic violence.

“We appreciate AdvancePierre for reaching out to us so that we could share important information with their employees after the death of Crystal Johnson,” she said. “Our goal is to offer the resources and tools needed for someone to escape a violent environment, or at least educate family and friends so they can help their loved ones.”

Blankenship said October is a “vital time” of year for organizations such as the YWCA.

“Domestic Violence Awareness Month is a vital time for our organization, and many other women’s shelters, to raise public awareness and break the silence about domestic violence,” she said. “It is not a topic most people are comfortable talking about and the more information, statistics, personal stories that are shared, the more the public is educated on this very important and serious issue.”

Enid Police Department received a call at 12:06 p.m. Aug. 17 from 601 W. Maple by Johnson’s roommate, saying Johnson was unresponsive.

The woman also said Johnson had a fight with her boyfriend the night before, and that he was no longer at the residence.

Emergency responders arrived at the residence to find Johnson dead, with large amounts of blood at the scene and signs of a struggle throughout the house.

A neighbor said Johnson and another woman came over at about 10:30 p.m. Aug. 16 to drink. He said he saw Lowe following Johnson around telling her that he loved her, according to court documents. The man said he went home and 15 minutes later, he said the other woman and her husband left after stating Lowe was “tripping out” with Johnson.

The neighbor said he later heard Lowe beating Johnson and that it went on for about 10 minutes, and then it went quiet so he went to bed. He said the next morning, he called Johnson’s roommate to check on Johnson, and a few minutes later, she called him back and said Johnson was dead.

Detective John Robinson spoke with Johnson’s roommate, who said she knew Lowe to be Johnson’s boyfriend and that he lived at 601 W. Maple.

The woman said she and everyone she associates with knew Lowe routinely beat Johnson, according to an affidavit filed in Lowe’s case. She said Johnson once made the statement to her, “If you ever find my body, Jason did it.”

Lowe had pleaded guilty Aug. 7, nine days prior to Johnson’s death, to a misdemeanor count of domestic abuse assault and battery. Johnson also was the victim in that case.

Police would use Johnson’s bank card to track Lowe to the town of Hobart. Authorities there placed Lowe under arrest and he was extradited back to Garfield County, where he was charged with first-degree murder.

Lowe made no objections to a request for bond to be denied in his case. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing at 9 a.m. Dec. 27.

Blankenship said the YWCA is always striving toward furthering the community’s education on domestic violence.

“YWCA Enid is always available to the community, businesses, civic organizations, schools for presentations about domestic violence, such as the signs that co-workers and friends can look for when they fear someone may be abused,” she said. “We have brochures about all the YW’s programs for women and we have information that can be given to people about facts and statistics concerning domestic violence.

“The YW would love for all businesses and community groups to schedule a tour of the shelter. It really gives them a true insight on how we can help women who are in difficult situations.”

Blankenship said there is always help available for women in distress because of domestic violence and abuse.

“There are victim advocates available 24/7, as well as the crisis center hotline,” she said. “The advocates work with the women and their families on safety planning, applying for employment, enrolling in school, getting a place of their own, etc. They help them understand the importance of financial planning and keeping important documents in a safe accessible location.

“The women and children that enter our shelter arrive with very few belongings,” she said. “We are so appreciative of all the organizations and individuals who donate clothing, furniture, toiletries and linens to My Sister’s Closet.”

Blankenship said without the support of the Enid and surrounding community, the YWCA would not be able to give the help it does to the women who need it most.

“It truly makes a difference for the women and their families, as well as for our organization,” she said. “Without the community’s generosity, we would have to purchase these items for many of our clients.”

For 24 hour domestic violence victims services, call YWCA Enid’s crisis line at (580) 234-7644 or (800) 966-7644.