How arrest in Maya Millete case has brought new attention to domestic violence discussion

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SAN DIEGO – The alleged murder of Chula Vista mother of three Maya “May” Millete by her husband Larry Millete has brought new attention to the issue of domestic violence in the community.

Millete, 40, was jailed Tuesday on suspicion of murder after a high-profile investigation spanning more than nine months into the disappearance of Maya, his wife of more than 20 years. Detectives this week offered new insights into the couple’s troubled marriage, detailing Maya’s intentions to divorce Larry, who loved ones had described as “stalker-like” and “controlling.” Maya has not been seen since Jan. 7.

Larry and his attorney have denied any wrongdoing in court filings and in text exchanges with FOX 5. He is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday at the South Bay Courthouse in Chula Vista.

In a joint news conference held Tuesday, Chula Vista police Chief Roxana Kennedy called Maya’s suspected murder a “senseless tragedy” and noted officers and Maya’s family were wearing purple ribbons in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

“Domestic violence is prevalent in every community and affects all people regardless of age, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion or nationality,” Kennedy said. “This is a time to acknowledge domestic violence survivors and be a voice for its victims.”

Lending her voice and experience to that discussion is Ginny Scharbarth, co-founder and executive director of the San Diego-based Kathy’s Legacy Foundation. The foundation is named for Ginny’s daughter, Kathy Scharbarth, who was murdered on Thanksgiving Day in 2011 by an ex-boyfriend in her Carlsbad home.

Speaking to FOX 5’s Kathleen Bade Wednesday, Scharbarth said she was in shock “for months” after her daughter’s death.

“You just don’t know how to put one foot in front of the other,” she said. “You don’t know how to keep the whole family from imploding and you don’t know – you’re taking care of a granddaughter that has been traumatized. It’s all very, very difficult to go through step by step.”

Emotions were running high for many at Tuesday’s presser, most visibly in Maya’s sister Maricris Drouaillet. Drouaillet with her husband Richard publicly fronted much of the community’s search effort to find Maya, often driving down at least once a week from Riverside to scour local landscapes for any sign of her sister.

Wiping away tears with Richard’s arm around her, Drouaillet called it an “overwhelming” time and pleaded with the public to fulfill a promise to Maya’s 11-year-old daughter to bring her home.

“This is still not the end,” Drouaillet said. “We still have a long way to go. I just want to see my sister. I still want her to come home to us. Please, if you know anything at all, please help us.”

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 20 people each minute suffer physical abuse by a partner in the U.S., impacting some 10 million women and men in a single year. More than 20,000 calls a day typically are placed to domestic violence hotlines, data released by the organization shows.

Verna Griffin-Tabor, CEO of Center for Community Solutions, told FOX 5 that domestic violence instances often are about “power and control.”

“In domestic violent relationships, the most lethal time is when someone leaves,” Griffin-Tabor said, adding that the organization’s hotline – 888-385-4657 – is available to help discuss options for those experiencing domestic violence.

“What we want folks to understand – not out of fear that the situation can be the most lethal when they’re leaving – but so they know how to put a safety plan together,” she said. “What kind of documents do they need? What do they need to do in terms of finding a safe place to be? That’s really important, particularly as a situation is escalating.”

After Kathy’s murder, Scharbarth said it was a “no-brainer” to take care of Kathy’s daughter, Madison. The work of her foundation is in knowing there are other Madisons out there in need of resources – ranging from emotional to financial – to help restore any sense of “normalcy” in their lives, she said.

Watching this week’s news conference was understandably difficult for Scharbarth. She expects the process for Maya’s family will be “really hard,” but that there’s also some hope in the time to come.

“It doesn’t seem like it right now to them or other victims,” she said. “I remember if someone had told me, ‘There’s hope. You’re gonna be OK.’ I would think, ‘There’s no way.’

“To this day, we’re hopeful, but you’re never the same. Something’s missing.”

FOX 5’s Kathleen Bade, Andrew Luria and Maria Arcega-Dunn contributed to this report.

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