For years, friends said, Tara O’Shea-Watson had been a victim of domestic violence.
She had shown up on their doorsteps, battered and bloodied after alleged violent encounters with her estranged husband, they said. She had talked to them about taking her children and fleeing from their home in Commercial Township, N.J., but the courts reportedly would not let her move them out of state.
She had taken out a restraining order — but her estranged husband allegedly broke into her home and assaulted her. She had seen him get indicted on burglary and domestic-violence charges, and then walk free.
“She didn’t have a voice,” a friend, Penny Morey, recently told NJ.com. “Nobody cared. She wanted to be heard, and nobody heard her. Domestic violence is real.”
On Dec. 18, just a month after the domestic-violence charges were dismissed, authorities said Jeremiah Monell stabbed O’Shea-Watson numerous times in her body, face and neck, killing her, according to a criminal complaint.
Early the next morning, a neighbor called 911, saying that O’Shea-Watson’s son had come to the neighbor’s house and told him, “Mom’s dead,” according to 911 audio obtained by NJ.com.
“She is dead,” the neighbor confirmed to the dispatcher.
“My wife just found her on the living room floor,” the neighbor said in a steady voice. “Her ex-husband was over here last night doing brakeline work on her truck.”
The man went on to tell the dispatcher that O’Shea-Watson was wrapped in a blanket, so he did not see any blood or signs that she had been injured. The dispatcher then asked him whether it appeared that she had just died in her sleep.
“Yeah,” the man replied, hesitantly.
Then, he said paramedics had arrived.
“Oh, my God, she was murdered!” he suddenly called out. “I need a state trooper out here now.”
New Jersey State Police troopers responded to the scene and soon started searching for Monell, who led them on a two-week manhunt before he was finally found in a wooded area in Folsom, N.J., according to NJ.com.
The 32-year-old has been charged with murder.
Just a month before Monell was accused of killing O’Shea-Watson, prosecutors had dismissed the burglary and domestic-violence charges relating to an April 2016 incident, in which authorities said Monell broke into O’Shea-Watson’s home and assaulted her, according to the Daily Journal.
Monell was indicted on a charge of second-degree burglary and fourth-degree criminal contempt because he was found to be in violation of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act.
It is unclear why the charges were dismissed.
The Cumberland County prosecutor’s office did not give a reason at the time. New Jersey State Police officials said Tuesday they could not comment on an active criminal investigation.
When Monell allegedly went to O’Shea-Watson’s home last month, he “did knowingly violate a final restraining order by being at the residence . . . and being involved in a domestic dispute, causing injury to the victim which resulted in her death,” according to a complaint cited by NJ.com.
O’Shea-Watson, 35, had taken out a restraining order and filed for divorce, one of her friends told the Press of Atlantic City.
Family members and friends said she wanted to protect herself and her children, two of whom she had with Monell. According to the Press of Atlantic City, her cousin, Bryan Dunn, said “she wasn’t going to leave them behind.”
“We all told her to run anyway,” Morey, her friend, told NJ.com. “To go anyway.”
“It was living hell,” Jen L. Messeck, another friend, told the website. “He beat her. She was constantly on the run from him. She wanted nothing more than to get out of here.”
The friends said O’Shea-Watson wanted to move to Tennessee to be near family, but a judge told her she could not move her children.
A 2013 report from the World Health Organization states that more than one in three women worldwide have been victims of physical or sexual violence — most at the hands of intimate partners. About one in four adults say they were physically abused as children, according to a 2014 report, and one in five women say they were sexually abused as children.
“Such violence contributes to lifelong ill health — particularly for women and children — and early death,” according to the report, which was published in 2014 by WHO, the U.N. Development Program and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. “Many leading causes of death such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and HIV/AIDS are the result of victims of violence adopting behaviors such as smoking, alcohol and drug misuse, and unsafe sex in an effort to cope with the psychological impact of violence.”
“Violence also places a heavy strain on health and criminal justice systems, social and welfare services and the economic fabric of communities,” the report states.
An obituary for O’Shea-Watson said she “is in Heaven now and is no longer afraid.”
Monell, who appeared in court this month, is charged with O’Shea-Watson’s murder and related weapons offenses, according to NJ.com.
Attorneys for Monell could not immediately be reached to comment.
Since O’Shea-Watson’s slaying, her mother, Emily O’Shea, has been speaking out against domestic violence.
“It didn’t need to happen,” she said during a vigil last month, according to NJ.com. “People knew what was going on. The police department knew what was going on. The court system knew it was going on. Why? There’s no sense in it.”
This story has been updated.