Some endure a lifetime of suffering domestic violence. But for Jessica Tice, 34, it only took five months. Her mother, Rita Dougan, believes the violence started in January. In May she was dead.
Dougan says it took too long for her to learn her daughter was being threatened, stalked, and manipulated. "About two weeks before [her death] is when I really started to get concerned," remembered Dougan. "But we thought we had everything in place to keep her safe. But like so many women know -- little white pieces of paper don't matter."
For months -- the mother of three lived in fear for her family's safety. "She bought pepper spray for me and her both and I say now we brought pepper spray to a gunfight. And we didn't even know he had a gun," said Dougan.
The alleged killer, convicted felon Jason Perry, is Tice's estranged ex-boyfriend. He's currently in the Gibson County jail facing life without parole if convicted. Dougan says Perry stalked the family the day of her daughter's murder -- following them to a Princeton restaurant. They were celebrating her grandson's eighth grade graduation.
"She was very strong. But that day she broke down four times. She was that afraid of losing one of her boys, or losing her life, or losing me," recalled Dougan. "We just didn't even know he was around. The police came in and told us they told him to go away, to leave us alone, stay away from us. And when we went out that door we looked all around for his truck and it was no place to be found."
Thinking it was safe, the family left the restaurant. Investigators say Perry was there hiding, watching, waiting for them to come outside. "And then we're talking one minute and boom. She's gone."
Perry gunned down Tice in front of her mother and her son in broad daylight. Her mother believes Tice's final words saved her son's life. "Her last words were 'Oh God, no. Run, Logan! Run," said Dougan.
Dougan now cares for her three grandsons. She's taking it upon herself to break the silence harbored by so many women like her daughter, hoping it will save another's life.
"Yes Jessie that little light of yours will continue to shine, stay wrapped in the hands of the Lord," Dougan said during the program at Lafayette Park Tuesday evening. "I would like to close by saying Thank you to the Lord for letting me have the joy of being her mother."
After the program, participants dropped flower petals into the park's pond in honor of their friends, loved ones, and strangers touched by domestic violence. "This is for you Jess," yelled Dougan with a smile, tossing handfuls of petals into the water. The petals spiraled in the air like an elegant swarm of butterflies. Dougan paused to watch the colorful petals as they came to a rest on the serene water. As she walked away she greeted family and friends with hugs, promising the event would be even bigger and better next year.
Somewhere in the pond at Lafayette Park there is healing. Behind each petal, a person living through grief -- praying for courage to outmatch tomorrow.