Canyon County

Like mother, like daughter: The cycle of domestic violence

Dawn Jantzen’s daughter, Jaclyn Zabel, was shot to death by her boyfriend, who then killed himself. Jantzen lived through an abusive relationship. It is time for Idaho’s Republican-led Legislature to do what’s right and enact tougher measures to prohibit abusers from getting their hands on firearms.
Dawn Jantzen’s daughter, Jaclyn Zabel, was shot to death by her boyfriend, who then killed himself. Jantzen lived through an abusive relationship. It is time for Idaho’s Republican-led Legislature to do what’s right and enact tougher measures to prohibit abusers from getting their hands on firearms. kjones@idahostatesman.com

By age 29, volatile relationships were the norm for Jaclyn Zabel.

She first watched her mother struggle for years, taking regular beatings at the hands of her father, her mother says.

As an adult, Zabel once was forced to hide at the Holiday Inn Express where she worked after a violent fight with her boyfriend, Ian Stone.

And just this spring, the pair got into an argument and Stone left the home where they were living outside Caldwell. The following day, May 28, he returned — and authorities found the couple clinging to life, each with a gunshot wound to their head.

Zabel and Stone were taken to a Boise hospital, where they both died one day later. Investigators said Stone shot Zabel, then turned the gun on himself.

Studies show that children who witness domestic violence are more likely to be affected by violence as adults — either as victims or perpetrators, according to UNICEF.

One study in North America found that children who were exposed to violence in the home were 15 times more likely to be physically and/or sexually assaulted than the national average. Just last year in Ada County, emergency dispatchers received 3,629 calls about domestic violence, threats, disputes or reports.

Zabel's mother, Dawn Jantzen, told the Statesman she had concerns about the couple's relationship for years. She said she repeatedly tried to convince her daughter to leave Stone.

"Jaclyn used to say, 'Mom, you stayed. Dad treated you badly, and you stayed,' " Jantzen said. "That will forever be with me because I know I was her example."

Idahoan Jaclyn Zabel was killed by her boyfriend of 9 years. Her mother, Dawn Jantzen, spent years in an abusive relationship. Jantzen now worries about her grandchildren.

Unintended role model

Zabel was born in 1988, the same year her parents were married.

It took 18 years and a serious injury before Dawn decided it was time to leave. She filed for divorce in 2006.

It took a lot of help from a good friend to escape the relationship, Jantzen said. She sought a divorce multiple times, she said, but always went back.

Jantzen's ex-husband has three past charges for domestic incidents in Canyon County, according to court records reviewed by the Statesman. All three involved Jantzen; through plea deals they became two convictions for disturbing the peace.

Statesman attempts to contact the man were unsuccessful.

Jantzen still recalls the deep fear she had during those years, even when police were called.

"I remember several times after I got beat, there was a police officer once who said, 'You're like this person who puts themselves in front of a Rottweiler knowing that you're gonna get bit,' " she said. "And you know what, have no doubt, I was. I knew I was going to get bit but I couldn't get out."

Partly, she stayed because her ex threatened to take her children. Partly, she said, she feared for their lives.

"It wasn't until I could find my own self-worth" that she left, she said. "But I had to really battle to get out."

Jantzen said staying in a violent marriage makes it hard for children to decipher what a healthy relationship looks like — what is right and what is wrong.

And advocates agree. Criselda De La Cruz-Valdez is executive director of the Nampa Family Justice Center, a nonprofit working to stop domestic and sexual violence.

"People tend to fall into the same old pattern and part of changing the cycle is through education," De La Cruz-Valdez said. "What we see is (families) not talking about it, not being educated, and kids see this as normal. It's just how it is."

The center tries to help children who've observed violence understand what behavior is healthy, and what is not. It offers counselors to help children understand what they've seen, and free group settings for teens and adults who want to learn more about boundaries and breaking the cycle.

Children may mistakenly learn that hitting someone is normal when they're angry, said De La Cruz-Valdez.

"It's an instant gratification to hit them," she said. "They think, 'I'm mad and I'm going to hit you.' It's a complicated thing. It's so intertwined and twisted that it's hard to have people moving through the process (of violent homes) get out of it."

Today, Jantzen questions whether love was ever a part of her daughter's relationship.

"Did she love him? Did she know what love was?" her mother questions. "It wasn't what she was exhibited. Love doesn't hurt you, love doesn't beat you, love doesn't make you feel worthless, it doesn't beat you down. I don't think she knew that."

Zabel's story

Zabel described Stone as "fun" and "nice" when the couple first met nine years ago, Jantzen said. They were both hearing-impaired, giving them something in common.

But once the nine-year relationship began to grow, Jantzen said, Stone seemed to tighten his grip on Zabel's freedom.

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Ian Stone, pictured after an arrest in February 2007. Bonner County Sheriff's Office

The couple moved away from Zabel's family in Caldwell and into Garden City. Then they headed north to Sandpoint and eventually to Naples, a town of just over 1,400 people outside Bonners Ferry, near where Stone's father lives. They stayed there until this spring, when they traveled to live with Zabel's father outside Caldwell — to be closer to family and friends, according to her obituary, and so Stone could continue working on his Brazilian jiujitsu, said Jantzen.

Jantzen, who lives in Colorado, saw the moves as isolating. "Naples is a very, very small community and police are miles away," she said.

The authorities did get involved in late 2014 and early 2015, when Zabel's Holiday Inn coworkers called them about the fight. Police recorded her injuries and charged Stone with domestic battery, according to police records earlier reported by the Statesman. His charge was eventually pleaded down to disturbing the peace.

Unlike Stone, Zabel had a cochlear implant installed when she was in the seventh grade. The device mostly restored her hearing, and in later years became a precious way to hear her children, Jantzen said.

About three years ago, the implant's external component broke. Jantzen said Zabel told her Stone intentionally smashed it and then insisted the internal components be removed.

"Ian was very jealous of her hearing," Jantzen said. "He didn't have it and he didn't want her to have it. Take away the hearing and now he's got total control."

That incident gave Zabel another obstacle to leaving the relationship, said her stepfather, Daryl Jantzen.

"She was in a bubble and couldn't break out of it," he said. "She didn't have the means to break out of it. And I think in a lot of women's cases that's how it is."

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Dawn Jantzen, right, with her daughter, Jaclyn Zabel, and Jantzen's current husband, Daryl. Zabel was murdered in late May by her boyfriend, who then killed himself, authorities say. Provided by Dawn Jantzen

Zabel had just begun talking to her siblings about the need to leave Stone when the shooting happened, her mother said.

It's still unclear what exactly led up to the violence on May 28. Law enforcement has not released any details of its investigation, and no one appears to have witnessed the attack.

The gun used actually belonged to Zabel.

"Ian didn't have a gun, but he made my daughter buy a gun and convinced her this was for her protection," Dawn Jantzen said. Adding a firearm to a violent relationship, though, only made the situation more dangerous, Jantzen said.

Stone's family, meanwhile, sees the gun's ownership as a sign that things did not unfold as indicated. His father, Robin Stone, previously told the Statesman the family believes Zabel and a previous wife made false reports against Ian Stone. He and other relatives who wrote the Statesman questioned Canyon County law enforcement's conclusions and whether a struggle occurred before Zabel was shot, but did not respond to further queries.

Changing the future

Time will tell how Zabel's four children will be impacted by the family's history of violence.

Jantzen said she hopes to take the children — ages 6, 8, 9 and 10 — into her own home. Authorities haven't decided who will take custody of the children.

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Jaclyn Zabel with one of her daughters. Zabel was shot to death in late May by her boyfriend, who then killed himself, authorities say. Her mother, Dawn Jantzen, said Zabel seemed most alive when she was with her children. Provided by Dawn Jantzen

The children's history is all too common nationwide. According to the National Center Against Domestic Violence, one in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90 percent of those children are eyewitnesses to this violence.

According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, children exposed to violence are more likely to attempt suicide, abuse drugs and alcohol, run away from home, engage in teenage prostitution and commit sexual assault crimes.

Dawn Jantzen and her husband hope to stop the cycle of violence in their family by spreading awareness, and helping their grandchildren understand what a healthy relationship looks like. The couple has set up a GoFundMe account to raise money for the children.

"I don't want one more person to lose their daughter," she said. "I don't want one more child to lose their mama. That's not fair. "

NEED HELP?

Anyone impacted by domestic violence and in need of help should call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

The Boise Women's and Children's Alliance's hotline can be contacted at 208-343-7025.

Nampa residents may call 211 and ask for Nampa's Domestic Violence Hotline, or call 800-621-4673.

Caldwell's Advocates Against Family Violence's hotline can be contacted at 208-459-4779.

Ruth Brown: 208-377-6207, @RuthBrownNews
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