After Hermitage fire, domestic advocate encourages speaking out

(Courtesy: Daugherty Family)

HERMITAGE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A heartbreaking crime claimed another life.

Saturday afternoon, a 9-year-old girl died from injuries she sustained during a fire at her home in Hermitage.

Police say Crystal Daugherty’s father set the fire after he killed her mother. Gary Daugherty died Friday night. He’s accused of killing his wife Suzanne before he set fire to the family’s house in Hermitage early Friday morning.

Police believe this is the result of domestic violence, a serious concern in Tennessee.

Verna Wyatt serves as a voice for victims.

“People don’t realize that domestic violence impacts all of us,” Wyatt told News 2.

Today she is a voice for Suzanne and her daughter Crystal.

Police say Suzanne’s husband covered the windows of their home with plastic, poured an accelerant inside and then set it on fire. Firefighters found Suzanne dead with a wound to her head and a possible stab wound.

(Courtesy: Daugherty Family)

“That was the culmination of probably lots of violent episodes that happened in that home. Domestic violence is about power and control and when the abuser thinks he’s losing power over the victim usually the violence escalates, sometimes it’s a deadly escalation,” Wyatt explained.

RELATED: Hermitage house fire claims 3 lives, including 9-year-old daughter

Less than two weeks before her death, Daugherty told a police officer that she had an argument with her husband and they were going through a divorce.

She believed her husband had put sugar in her gas tank, leaving her stranded when she planned to go see a divorce attorney.

Metro police told us Suzanne declined to meet with a domestic violence counselor, get help find a shelter or seek an order of protection.

“Victims of domestic violence, they’re afraid to report. They’re ashamed to report. Some of the times they don’t want anybody to think that they could be living in that kind of environment,” said Wyatt.

Metro police told us there were no previous calls to the Daughertys’ home. They also did not have a record of domestic abuse.

“Domestic abusers, they look at their family as property they’re entitled to do whatever they want to to them,” said Wyatt. “And that little girl was just collateral damage which is unfortunate, but to her mother, you know, it was her life.”

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation crime report revealed more than half of all crimes committed against people in the state are domestic violence-related.

Advocates believe the numbers in the report are even higher because it is one of the most under reported crimes.

“This is a concern for everyone. It’s not just a story that we read and then we walk away,” said Wyatt. “It’s something that impacts crime in Nashville, violence in Nashville and if we really want to stop the generational march to prison, if we really want to stop violence, we’ve got to dedicate ourselves to stopping domestic violence and we can do that.”

The Tennessee Voice of Victims is a non-profit trying to prevent crime through education. If you’re a victim, the agency can connect you with someone who can help.