Death sparks Lafayette mom’s violence awareness campaign
Lafayette, CO Colorado
LAFAYETTE, Colorado ” Kathy Robertson lost her daughter 16 months ago, when an ex-boyfriend stabbed Centaurus High School graduate Abigail Robertson 27 times and shot her four times after stalking her for several months.
A year after the murder, Robertson launched a foundation for domestic-violence awareness named “Abby’s Voice” in her 21-year-old daughter’s honor.
“Dating violence is happening everywhere,” she said. “It seems to be almost acceptable for this generation. It’s a huge issue that doesn’t get enough attention.”
Abby, a student at Metropolitan State College of Denver “felt sorry” for her former fling, Marcus Hightower, 25, and she didn’t take his actions or threats seriously, her mother said.
“My husband and I didn’t take it seriously, either,” Robertson said. “I thought he was a kid being a kid.”
A golf tournament in Abby’s honor also is set for June 19 in Broomfield.
Family members said Abby, who was studying business at Metro State, met Hightower when he was her resident adviser in the college dorms. A few weeks after they split, he came to her apartment to take back gifts he had given her. He hit her and damaged her car, family members said, and Abby called police.
Hightower was charged with stalking, property damage, domestic violence, burglary and assault. A restraining order also was filed against Hightower. In the months that followed, family members said Hightower stalked Abby, hanging derogatory posters of her on the Denver campus, calling her repeatedly and threatening her life.
On Dec. 11, 2007, just a few months after the abuse began, police found Abby stabbed to death in her Glendale apartment. Officers arrested Hightower on suspicion of killing her; he’s now charged with first-degree murder.
Hightower is being held at Arapahoe County Jail without bail. His trial is scheduled to start in July, though Robertson expects it to be delayed at least until fall.
Instead of focusing on the trial, Robertson said, she’s chosen to put her energy into the foundation.
“This keeps me busy,” she said. “Otherwise, you go crazy.”
Abby was born in Statesville, N.C., and the family relocated to Lafayette when she was 11. She attended Ryan Elementary for two years, Angevine Middle School and then Centaurus.
Barb McGraw, who taught Abby in seventh grade at Angevine and is a member of the foundation’s board, said she wants to raise awareness “so nobody has to go through what Kathy and Chuck went through.”
She said working with the foundation is helping her heal, but “it still just makes me so sad.”
“I adored her,” McGraw said about her former student. “She was one of the sweetest girls ever. She was one of those kids you wanted to be around. She had so many friends. She always found the best in everybody.”
As a teacher for 20 years, she’s seen girls get into physically abusive, obsessive relationships and “not know how to get out of them.” For some girls, she said, “it’s the cool thing to be with this wild guy.”
Robertson said her main priority is seeing the state pass legislation requiring Colorado school districts to educate students about dating violence, which is included in Boulder Valley’s health curriculum. She also wants to see more programs to help at-risk boys so they don’t become abusers.
“We kind of have this attitude that boys should just buck up,” she said. “But they’re vulnerable, too.”
She also wants to visit schools and universities along the Front Range to spread the message her daughter would have for young people in abusive relationships ” “They don’t have to put up with these guys.”
“A guy slapping you, telling you you’re ugly, telling you that you can’t hang out with your friends ” that’s not acceptable behavior,” Robertson said. “No one should ever control what you do or where you go.”
A survey showed a good bit of support for local government action to bolster workforce housing in town. For now though, that support stops at supporting a new tax for funding.