Niagara County’s Battle with Domestic Violence
And the Crime that will Always be Remembered
At 5:30 p.m. on the summer night of Aug. 4, 2004, 30 year old Tina Boyer was found dead on the bathroom floor of her Washburn apartment.
Today, Boyer would have been 41 years old had she not fallen victim to domestic violence.
However, eleven years later and her memory still lives strong throughout the Niagara County due to the endless amounts of fundraisers and domestic violence awareness events the Niagara YWCA adopts.
“We want to get the awareness out there,” Vice President of programs and director of alternative programs and rape and sexual assault program for victims Mary Brennan-Taylor said. “People don't realize how big of a problem [domestic violence] is in this area (Niagara County).”
In 2014 alone 3,640 domestic reports were made in the Niagara County area according to the Domestic incident reports from each of the various police agencies in the Niagara County. This is not including the cases that were not reported due to victim fear and the lack of bystander intervention.
Domestic violence cases have steadily increased from year to year in both female and male victim cases by the hand of their intimate partner. In Lockport New York alone the total number of reported cases has reached 166 and 1,218 in Niagara County according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.
Brennan-Taylor and prevention educator of sexual violence and teen pregnancy prevention Rachel Sandle’s goal is not only to raise awareness but also encourage people who are victims to get help and for those witnessing someone falling victim to speak up.
“We see a lot of victim blaming and we want to try to shift the social norms and move the focus from the victim to the abuser,” Sandle said. “Even with bystander intervention…we hope to encourage people to be the voice and help stop [the violence].”
At 5:30 p.m. on the summer night of Aug. 4, 2004, 30 year old Tina Boyer was found dead on the bathroom floor of her Washburn apartment by her friend Ricky Patterson.
Her friend went to check on her since she was not outside visiting with others in the neighborhood like she usually is according to police reports.
A few days prior to the crime, Boyer gave Patterson a key to her apartment, so when she did not answer the door he let himself in. He began walking through the apartment, calling her name and turning on the lights.
As he entered the bathroom he turned on the light to find Tina lying on the floor. He then ran from the apartment to Boyer’s Parent’s apartment down the street and woke them, telling them there was something with Tina.
After waking her parents, Patterson then went to Tina’s brother’s apartment where he met him at the door. The two then went back to check on Tina.
This time when Patterson entered the bathroom he saw blood. The police were called by Tina’s brother who said she “was lying on the floor of her apartment, hurt, possibly dead.” Once police and fire personnel arrived they found Tina Boyer to be unresponsive.
Officers called for a supervisor, additional officers and the detectives. The crime scene was completely processed by 5 p.m. Thursday Aug. 5 and the autopsy was performed at 10 a.m. that morning at Erie County Medical Center officially ruling her death as a homicide.
Detective Lt. Richard Podgers and a team of detectives had been interviewing both family and the streets to find out more information including the last time Boyer was seen alive.
A murder weapon was not identified on the scene of the crime; however several items were collected from the house to be forensically tested to determine if they had a weapon.
On Sept. 3, 2004 Rodney T Davis was arrested at his home at 164 Church St. on an arrest warrant for second-degree murder in the death of Tina Boyer.
Rodney T Davis was taken to trial for strangling and stabbing ex-girlfriend Tina Boyer in the bathroom of the Washburn apartment they formerly shared. He was charged with second-degree murder and third-degree possession of a weapon.
The prosecution’s murder case against Davis got off to a shaky start when Patterson was unable to account for his whereabouts in the 90 minutes before the homicide was reported to police.
Co-Defense Counsel Patrick Balkin accused Patterson of the killing, but First Assistant District Attorney Timothy R. Lundquist promised the jury the he will offer DNA evidence showing the victim’s blood was in Davis’s pants pocket.
In addition two jailhouse informants Michael Ziolkowski and Duane E. Price testified that Davis had told them while behind bars that he killed Boyer by chasing her through her home and stabbing and strangling her in the bathroom.
On March 16, 2005 the jury deliberated for about six hours before finding Davis guilty of both charges against him.
On May 3, 2005 Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza sentenced Davis to 25 to life on the murder conviction and concurrently to 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison on the weapon conviction.
Rodney T Davis is currently serving time at Auburn Correctional Facility and is scheduled for a release date of Aug. 29, 2029.
Keeping Tina’s Memory Alive
Tina Boyer’s death wasn't in vain. Today her memory flourishes throughout the YWCA of Niagara due to fundraisers and events done in her honor.
Boyer’s mother Debbie Boyer has set out to make sure the awareness of domestic violence within Lockport and the Niagara County is known as well as create avenues of help for young woman in need.
“Instead of giving up and letting the death of her daughter consume her,” Brennan-Taylor said, “She stepped up and decided that she wasn't going to step aside and let this happen to someone else’s daughter.”
Debbie Boyer has dedicated her energies toward ensuring woman of the Lockport area as well as the Niagara County that the YWCA is a safe haven for them where they can seek help within their plethora of programs.
“We really are here to help. Whatever they want they have it,” Sandle said. “If they don't want their parents to know or the police involved and so on we work to make sure that their needs are met.”
Within the past eleven years following Boyer’s death the YWCA has blossomed in their fight against Domestic Violence by raising awareness and offering new methods of help for those in need.
Of these methods, the one director Mary Brennan-Taylor finds most rewarding is the collection of old cell phones in order to be donated and distributed to a domestic violence victim in need.
“In most cases, the abuser takes away the victim’s phone or is constantly checking it or won't allow them to have a phone at all,” Brennan-Taylor said.
The cell phones collected at the drive serve as an emergency line for domestic violence victims with some phones only programed to call 911.
“The thought is that if every victim has a phone that their abuser doesn't know about then maybe they could make that call for help and that call could save their life,” Brennan-Taylor said. “Debbie is a strong believer that is Tina had one of these phones then she'd probably be alive today.”
Niagara YWCA’s efforts are paying off. Today the Domestic Violence Intervention Program of the Niagara County Sheriff’s office has joined a national campaign to collect used cell phone to be used by victims to dial 911 in emergency situations.
Newer phones in good condition are given to local victims to aid in their safety planning, and the remainder of the phones collected is sent to a distribution center to be refurbished or recycled.
The YWCA: A Safe Haven for Those in Need
Domestic violence has become a huge issue in the United States and does not discriminate.
Statistics show that women ages 20–24 are at greatest risk of becoming victims of domestic violence and that 1 in 4 of those women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime.
More than 60% of domestic violence incidents happen at home and women tend to experience more than 4 million physical assaults and rapes because of their partners.
The YWCA is the largest provider of abused women’s shelters and domestic violence services in the country taking on 4 sexual assault and domestic violence cases a month adding up to approximately 48 cases a year. Of these cases the YWCA country wide serves over 500,000 women and children.
They provide services and programs to address violence against woman and children ranging from emergency shelters, support groups and crisis hotlines.
The YWCA’s hope is to be able to raise the awareness of domestic violence and provide and encourage woman who are being abused and/or people who know of someone being harmed to speak up and get help.
“We want to get the awareness of what we do at the YWCA out there as well as the message that this is a place to turn to,” Brennan-Taylor said. “We also want to raise the awareness that it is a problem in this community.”
“We want woman who do fall victim to domestic violence to know that everybody that works [at the YWCA] wants to help them,” Sandle said. “Ultimately we are here for them, they call the shots.”
The YWCA of Niagara’s comprehensive program for domestic violence has a hotline for victims that is run 24/7 and can be reached at 433–6716.
For more information about the YWCA of Niagara you can visit their website at www.ywcaniagara.org.