Domestic abuse activists celebrate after charges dropped against Montana woman who killed violent husband

Domestic abuse activists celebrate after charges dropped against Montana woman who killed violent husband
Woman free from prosecution over murder charges pressed in October against abusive ex-partner

Anti-domestic violence campaigners have welcomed a Montana judge dropping charges against a woman who shot her abusive ex-husband dead.

Judge Amy Eddy’s ruling follows a motion to dismiss the charges, which were filed on 9 April by lawyer Lance Jasper, who represented the plaintiff Rachel Bellesen, 38, a coordinator at the Abbie Shelter, a shelter for abused women.

Prosecutors wanted them to be removed temporarily but activists, such as those at her workplace, felt they should be removed without the prospect of being reinstated.

Before the charges were dismissed, Karla Fisher, a lawyer and consultant specialising in domestic cases, said to the Daily Beast that dismissing charges like this were rare, but said people were “right to push for this to be truly over for this woman”.

Hilary Shaw, director of the Abbie Shelter, also said to the same outlet before the charges were dropped, “An injustice has been done. And the right thing to do is to fully vindicate Rachel.”

According to CNN, due to social distancing measures like lockdown, rates of domestic violence reported have increased by 8.1 per cent. However, the report also acknowledged that domestic violence is hard to quantify due to the amount of cases that are not reported.

Upon the court’s decision, Ms Bellesen released a statement about her experience, facing legal action for shooting dead her ex-husband who tried to rape her twice.

“Much like Jake tried so hard to do over the course of more than 20 years, the State of Montana again attempted to silence my voice. At the very start, they declared me a murderer, claimed I executed an innocent man in cold blood. They took my life, the lives of my loved ones, ripped it all apart with their horrible claims, and then tried to just walk away when they realised that they had no case,” she said.

She highlighted the similarities between being on trial to being abused.

“It was eerily similar to when an abuser attacks you – and then tries to serve a sad excuse of apology with a bouquet of flowers the next morning, expecting you to just take them in gratitude, say nothing, and go on about your day like nothing happened.”

“No.” Ms Bellesen said and also made a point to highlight the need for legal reform.

“The women of Montana deserve better. Our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, and daughters deserve better. ALL of our children deserve better. Our country deserves better. And I’m not going away in silence.” she said

Mr Jasper told The Daily Beast,” I never thought I’d go in and have to say a dismissal isn’t good enough. But gosh it was great.”

He also managed to get Ms Bellesen’s bail amount reduced in October from $200,000 to $20,000.

At the time, he told the AP, “She’s been so worried about her children. They’ve lost their dad and not being able to be there to help through this difficult time, it was killing her.”

Ms Bellesen was charged in October 2020 for the murder of her ex-husband Jacob Glace. This was after she informed authorities that she had shot him in self-defence, as he had attempted to rape her.

Glace had previously pleaded guilty to assaulting Ms Bellesen, according to court records from 2004 where he stood charged with fourth-degree assault. According to the AP, he had faced assault charges last year for actions committed against another partner.

Ms Bellesen said that Glace continued to harass her following their divorce, as he was doing on 8 October, the night she shot him. She spoke of going to see him due to him making threats regarding their son. Following the shooting, she and her husband alerted law enforcement to what had happened and had her injuries inspected by them at the local hospital. On 9 October, charges were filed.

A representative from the Montana Department of Justice told the Daily Beast they were reviewing the decision.

The Independent reached out to the Abbie Shelter for comment.

Anyone who requires help or support can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline on 1 800 799 SAFE (7233) or via their website, while those in the UK can contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which is open 24/7 365 days per year, on 0808 2000 247 or via their website