MUSCATINE — By telling their story, the daughters of Teresa Rowan hope that what happened to their mother doesn't happen to anyone else.
On Saturday, Teresa Rowan was killed in what the Muscatine Police Department described in a news release as a murder/suicide. Lance Stormm died Sunday as a result of self-inflicted gunshot wounds.
Amber Rowan, 25, and Shea Rowan, 19, described their mother as a "fun-loving person" who was "kind at heart" and a "very clean person."
"She was a kid at heart who always wanted to have fun," Shea said.
However, the girls said their mother had a history of getting into abusive relationships. They would do their best to help their mother, whether it was getting information from Muscatine's Family Resources on domestic abuse or stopping by the police station themselves, but "mom was too scared to say something herself," they said.
"She'd been talking about leaving him since last fall but was always too scared to leave him," Shea said. "She was too worried about us and not herself."
"This was in no way her fault," Amber said. "He threatened to hurt us if she left him."
Stormm was enrolled in a batterer's education program, and as recently as June 24, made a payment to the class. Through the Department of Corrections, if someone is charged with domestic violence, they likely will be under a court to attend the class.
Amber said Teresa met Stormm — whom Amber described as twice her mother's size and a bodybuilder — in a club about a year ago. From the beginning, Amber said she knew he was bad news. Over the past year, Amber said contact with their mother became less and less frequent. Stormm, the alleged offender, had a home in Cedar Rapids, where he and Teresa would often stay, as well.
"He was abusive and controlling," Amber said. "I made the mistake of not looking up his background and history until Saturday night, after everything happened."
On multiple occasions, Amber and Shea said they went to the police station and asked what they could do to help their mother. Calls to the police department on procedure were not returned Wednesday.
"We were told that without proof or her saying anything, there was nothing they could do," Amber said. She added they asked if something could be done if Stormm had a history of abuse and even showed law enforcement text messages from Teresa, saying she was scared. However, they were always told that Teresa needed to say something.
Rachel Riley Smock, program supervisor for Family Resources' sexual assault and domestic abuse advocacy program, said she or counselors at the center never tell women and men what they should or shouldn't do. The question shouldn't be why did Teresa stay, Smock said, but why was Stormm allowed to be abusive?
"Our program is based on self-empowerment," Smock said. "It's about the victim making their own decisions that we support. Our philosophy is we will never tell anyone what they should do. We offer them the resources and support and tell them we're worried about them, but we believe every person knows their own safety the best."
It's unknown what happened during the hours before Teresa was killed, but Smock said that when a woman does decide to leave an abusive situation, "that's the most dangerous time."
"Because the offender realizes they no longer have control or power over them, in the worst case scenario like this, they can kill the victim," Smock said. "People say these people need to be in anger management to manage their anger. But batterers can manage their anger quite well in public. It's behind closed doors with someone who’s defenseless."
Shea and Amber never thought their mother's relationship would end in death. Amber said her mother had tried to kill herself in the past and "thought she'd go by her own hand." Amber said her mom wrote a note, saying she'd been threatened with a gun within the past few months.
"The only times (she'd try to kill herself) were when she was in a relationship," Amber said. "I didn't think he would do this. I thought she'd get beat up and we'd get her out of the hospital and relationship."
Through everything that happened, Amber and Shea said they will always have good memories of their mother. Shea was the first woman in four generations of her family to graduate from high school. At her graduation, she said that she, her sister and their mother were in tears all day over the excitement of Shea graduating.
"She was so proud of me that day," Shea said.
Amber said she'll always remember her mother's willingness and love of caring for her grandchildren.
"She really loved her grandkids," Amber said. "She just wanted what was best for us."
If you think you are in an abusive relationship or need someone to talk to, contact Muscatine's Family Resources at 563-263-0067. The 24-hour crisis hotline number is 563-263-8080.