Files, PFAs suggest decades-long history of domestic abuse
By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times
On Tuesday, an East Fallowfield Township man made good on threats to kill his longtime girlfriend that date back more than a decade, court records suggest.
Gregory A. Twyman, 44, was taken into custody shortly after calling 9-1-1 to report the fatal shooting of Jamica M. Woods, 37, his longtime girlfriend – and the mother of their 18-year-old daughter.
Court records show that Woods sought a Protection-from-Abuse (PFA) petition three times, most recently in December; however, no PFA was active on Tuesday, according to court records. Woods, who was studying computer information systems, made the dean’s list last spring, according to a news release from Harrisburg Area Community College.
In the Dec. 20 petition, which was filed temporarily in district court and never finalized in county court, Woods cited a “long history of court proceedings” involving the two of them. She wrote that he had called about 10:30 p.m. on Dec. 20 and learned that she had sought a PFA and that “he would go to jail” if he approached her. “He said if I go to jail, wait to see where you go,” the petition said, adding that she believed he would “cause physical harm or even kill” her.
In 1999, Twyman was charged with terroristic threats, court records said. The criminal complaint said that Twyman, identified as Woods’ ex-boyfriend, called Woods from Florida and wanted to see their daughter. When Woods told Twyman he first needed to resolve issues with the police, “he got mad and said when he came home he was just going to blow her [expletive] head off,” the complaint said.
Twyman served 71 days in jail for threatening Woods on Jan. 4, 1998, court records said. The complaint said Twyman, identified again as an ex-boyfriend, ran from behind her residence when she was loading laundry into her car, followed her into the home, forced her on the floor, locked the door, and grabbed a knife from the kitchen. He punched her in the face and head and said if she told anyone, “he would kill her,” the complaint said. Later, he called Woods when police were at her residence and stated: “You called cops; I’m gonna get you,” the complaint said.
Dolly Wideman-Scott, who heads the Domestic Violence Center of Chester County, said the tragedy underscores the difficulties of escaping from an abusive relationship. “It’s not easy to get out, especially when women are repeatedly threatened,” she said. “They are usually more in fear of the violence after they take action to stop it. That can make perpetrators really angry.”
Wideman-Scott said it is important for woman and their loved ones to know that resources are available to help and that threats should be taken seriously. “You never know what that tipping point will be,” she said. “You never know when an abusive person will explode.”
She said women experiencing domestic violence are always advised to call police for their safety and they are also told about options such as emergency shelters, counseling and legal aid. She said some police departments have started to use a Lethality Assessment Program (LAP) that has proven valuable in determining which situations may escalate into a fatality.
Coatesville Police Officer Rodger Ollis said the program uses a series of insightful questions that quickly help identify the likelihood the situation will worsen. He said as word of the program’s success has spread, more departments are implementing it. He said in Maryland, where LAP is nearly universally applied by law enforcement and domestic violence programs, the homicide rate for domestic-abuse victims fell 41 percent in a year.
According to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, between 2001 and 2011, at least 1,700 people in Pennsylvania died as a result of domestic violence. National research into the circumstances preceding domestic violence homicides led to LAP, a two-pronged intervention process featuring a screening tool and accompanying protocols that enable law enforcement and other first responders to assess domestic violence victims, identify those at highest risk of being killed and immediately initiate contact with a domestic violence service provider, according to the coalition’s web site.
According to Twyman’s homicide criminal complaint, he called 9-1-1 at 12:10 p.m. on Tuesday, stating: “I need the police; I just shot my girlfriend.” When police arrived to take him into custody, he was on the porch of the residence they shared on Rokeby Road smoking a cigarette, the complaint said.
The day before the murder, the defendant had changed his Facebook profile picture to a shotgun shell, with a shotgun as the background. In response to posted comments, the defendant stated that the picture was “a slug fool,” that it was “gon be too late” if law enforcement tried to intervene, and “Once i handle my business, i don’t give a [expletive]!” During an interview with police, Twyman said he and Woods “had been fighting for days and that he had bought the shotgun shells last week at Walmart,” the complaint said.
Twyman, who has an extensive criminal history and was awaiting trial next month on drug charges, has been charged with first-degree murder and related offenses. He was taken to Chester County Prison, and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for May 30, court records said.