A Maury County family says they can finally move forward with their lives now that their daughter's killer has been sentenced for her murder.
“Not closure, it's relief,” said Ken Thompson, Tonya's father, “It's a relief not have to put our family through [a] trial, just relief.”
Tonya Thompson, 35, was found shot to death on September 1, 2011. Her boyfriend, John Fleming was charged with first degree murder.
Ken Thompson told Nashville's News 2 his daughter had a history of abuse while dating Fleming.
“That Sunday night before, I'd picked her up probably between one and two in the morning and you try to tell them there's help, you can stay with us. But coming home was admitting failure.”
Tonya was killed four days later.
Thompson's case was set to go to trial in Columbia Tuesday morning, but Fleming pleaded guilty.
Fleming accepted a combined 30 years in jail, with no chance of getting out early, for Thompson's murder and for a gun charge.
“This is a guaranteed 30 years and I'm real proud of the DA's office and [the] Columbia Police Department,” said Ken Thompson.
Thompson's family sat in court wearing purple, the color of domestic violence awareness, and pins with Tonya's picture on it.
Ken Thompson, Tonya's father, says he hopes her story will save other women who may be in abusive relationships.
“There's more and more cases happening every day,” he said. “And if we can get the word out there's help out there, then maybe we can prevent one.”
“I wish that it hadn't gotten to this point,” said Angie Slack, who works Hope House in Columbia. “I hope that we can take something from this case and learn from the history he [Fleming] had prior to this happening and all the signs that were there for all of us as a community to see.”
Hope House was established by Business Professional Woman of Columbia in 1988 to help victims of domestic violence.
Their current mission is to provide shelter, advocacy and support to their clients.
Slack said she has been working with the family since Tonya's murder.
“I think the focus needs to be on why he [Fleming] was allowed to do what he did so many times,” explained Slack, “He has a history of domestic violence going back, I believe, to the late '80s and never spent any significant amount of time in jail.”
According to Brent Cooper, the Thompson family's attorney, Fleming was supposed to have gotten rid of all his firearms, because of a domestic incident involving Tonya in July 2011.
“As a community, we need to step up and start addressing this issue and focus on the accountability of the offenders and less on why the victims do what they do,” Slack told Nashville's News 2.
Tonya left behind three children.
“They're doing alright,” said Teresa Thompson, Tonya's mother, “They know what happened, they're doing alright.”
Even though their daughter's case is officially closed within the court system, Ken and Teresa Thompson said they plan to continue advocating in the community and raising awareness for domestic violence issues.
“For us to quit now would be letting Tonya down,” said Ken Thompson.
- Aug. 29, 2012: Balloon release held for domestic violence victim
- Sept. 1, 2011: Columbia woman found dead, boyfriend charged with murder