‘Doomed from the start’


Domestic violence a frequent, often hidden problem

Photos of Brandy Johnson were displayed at a memorial service held for her at Lyn Gardens Apartments on June 21.  Beacon photo/Anthony DeFeo

Photos of Brandy Johnson were displayed at a memorial service held for her at Lyn Gardens Apartments on June 21. Beacon photo/Anthony DeFeo

DeLand resident Jeffrey S. Crivelli was indicted June 24 on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of Brandy Johnson.

Johnson, 33, was found dead June 10 in the DeLand apartment at Lyn Gardens she and Crivelli shared. Crivelli, her ex-boyfriend, was found later on June 10 in Georgia with Johnson’s car, and he confessed to killing her, according to the DeLand Police Department.

Since the two were roommates, if Crivelli is convicted, the death will be recorded in crime statistics as “domestic violence.”

With the investigation still ongoing, authorities aren’t releasing many details of the case, including information about the pair’s relationship, or even the cause of death.

“We won’t know until the Medical Examiner’s report is available. That can take some time,” said Sgt. Chris Estes of the DeLand Police Department.

The report that was made public described a chaotic scene in the apartment Johnson and Crivelli had shared, with a mattress up against the wall and blood on the wall and in the closet where Johnson’s body was found.

Domestic-violence cases are common.

The Volusia County Sheriff’s Department responded to 1,593 domestic-violence offenses in 2014, and that includes only cases in the areas served by the Sheriff’s Office. It doesn’t include cases inside the city limits of, for example, DeLand, Daytona Beach or Orange City.

The number — more than four a day — includes incidents of intimate-partner violence, as well as violence among any members of a household (for example, two brothers fighting). Eighty-two percent of cases responded to by the Sheriff’s Office resulted in an arrest — a higher percentage of arrests than in the previous four years.

In intimate-partner violence, a type of domestic violence, one partner uses power and control to manipulate the other psychologically, physically and/or sexually, according to the National Institute of Justice.

An estimated 31.5 percent of women will be physically abused by an intimate partner; 47.1 percent of women will experience at least one act of psychological aggression by an intimate partner, according to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey.

Graphic by Cassidy Alexander

Graphic by Cassidy Alexander

Teresa Drake, director of the Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Clinic at the University of Florida in Gainesville, and a visiting professor there, said abusers are not always monsters.

“Most batterers are quite charming,” she said. They can be of any gender, race or social class, and from any walk of life.

“This is across the board,” Drake said.What they have in common is that they “use power and control in intimate relationships.”

According to the Florida State University Institute for Family Violence Studies, most abusers have some characteristics in common: They have low self-esteem, tend to blame others, fear being alone, and need to be in control. Additionally, many abusers believe in a traditional male-dominated household and see their violent behavior as justified.

An organization called Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs developed a tool called the power and control wheel, which shows the tactics abusers use to maintain power and control.

For example, victims of intimate-partner violence could be made economically dependent on their abusers, or could be made to feel isolated, or guilty about their children. Abusers may use intimidation and coercion, make light of the abuse, or make the victim feel like she’s crazy.

Deltona resident Lisa Linden, executive director of White Lion Against Domestic Violence, was in an abusive relationship for 24 years.

During that time, she said, she was left in the snow in an unfamiliar state, with a baby, and had to find her own way home; she was forced to have sex with her abusive husband; she was the breadwinner in the home, but had to struggle to retain her money and keep the family financially stable.

In the end, Linden left, after what she refers to as “the last battle.”

“I was going out fighting,” Linden said. If she hadn’t, she said, “I wasn’t going to leave alive.”

Now, Lisa Linden has remarried and, with her husband, Darrell, runs White Lion Against Domestic Violence, a West Volusia-based nonprofit organization dedicated to helping women who are in abusive relationships.

In hindsight, Lisa Linden said, she can see that the abuse started when she and her previous husband first got together. He would set a date with her and never come to pick her up, wouldn’t answer when she called, and embarrassed her in front of her friends.

Missing those warning signs isn’t unusual, according to professor Drake. Often, she said, women don’t recognize themselves as victims until a serious physical injury occurs. She recalled a survivor who didn’t identify as a victim because she had never been given a black eye, when, in reality, her partner was terrorizing her in her home.

Sharron Blais, victim advocate for the DeLand Police Department, said it takes a victim an average of eight attempts before she is able to leave an abuser permanently. The victim may return due to fear or a lack of resources.

“It’s not going to get better. It’s only going to escalate,” Blais said.

Blais tries to make every victim understand this. She also works to help increase victims’ self-esteem and make them feel like they’re worth helping.

Help like that was hard to come by decades ago, when Lisa Linden was being abused.

“I felt like there was nobody I could talk to that understood what I was going through,” Linden said.

There are resources available today in West Volusia. White Lion Against Domestic Violence runs two thrift stores, in Deltona and Orange City, to help raise money for numerous rehabilitation programs, including transitional housing, pet and child care, and job-placement services, to name a few. Victims and survivors can call White Lion’s 24-hour line at 386-401-9688.

The Domestic Abuse Council of West Volusia offers emergency and transitional housing for victims and their children, as well as a 24-hour crisis line, court advocacy and outreach services. Their crisis number is 386-255-2102.

Intimate-partner violence “is a serious, preventable public health problem that affects millions of Americans,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To combat this problem, Drake said, information about healthy relationships should be taught starting in preschool and continuing through high school. Additionally, she said, doctors and lawyers should screen patients and clients for domestic violence.

Survivors need to be better connected to help, she said.

Support is crucial for those trying to make a break with their abusers.

Of the women killed in violent-intimate-partner relationships, 70 percent were killed while trying to leave or after leaving their abusers. Of that 70 percent, only 4 percent were ever connected to any resources.

“I think this needs to be something that we as a society take seriously,” Drake said. 

Neighbors of Johnson and Crivelli told The Beacon that, a day before the slaying, Johnson had evicted Crivelli. They also said they saw signs of abuse. Shirley Gabbard, the manager of Lyn Gardens Apartments, recalled a time she wanted to send someone in to repair something in Johnson and Crivelli’s apartment. Johnson told her, she said, “No, no, no, you can’t do that! Jeff will be home that day!”

Kelly Lowe, one of Johnson’s closest friends and a resident of the same apartments, remembered when Johnson put a picture of herself and Crivelli on Facebook. Crivelli forced her to remove the photo, Lowe said. Additionally, Lowe said, Crivelli tried to limit Johnson’s interaction with other residents of the apartment complex.

Despite neighbors’ speculation, there is little evidence about the nature of the couple’s relationship in the records of the case that have been made public at this time.

In February 2010, public records show, Crivelli was arrested and charged with domestic battery by strangulation, but court records indicate the case was not prosecuted.

“An argument occurred,” the victim wrote in her statement to the Daytona Beach Police Department. “I threw an object at him. He defended himself, choked me. I Do Not Want to press charges.”

Volusia County records show no other arrests for Crivelli between 2010 and Johnson’s death. And, Crivelli’s parents said their son is not a violent man.

“The person who committed that crime is not our son,” Stephen Crivelli, Jeffrey’s father, said. According to Stephen, Crivelli is a “loving,” “compassionate” person who “wouldn’t hurt anyone.”

Crivelli’s mother, Barbara Crivelli, blamed medication.

“He never had a problem until he went on the Adderall,” she said, adding that after he started taking it, he “became more violent.”

Adderall is a drug used to treat narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

After her son called her June 10 and said he had killed Brandy Johnson, Barbara Crivelli called police. According to the police report, she told the dispatcher Jeffrey Crivelli had said Johnson tried to kill him, but that he killed her instead.

Apartment-manager Gabbard knows one thing for certain.

“Have you ever seen two people get together and you just know they’re not meant to be?” That was Johnson and Crivelli, Gabbard said:

“Doomed from the start.”

Originally published in The West Volusia Beacon

Cassidy Alexander