Our agency began with our domestic violence program, Madeline's House. This is Madeline's Story.
On July 28, 1998 in Farmville, Virginia, Madeline Gearheart Mitchell made the decision she had taken all the mental and physical abuse she could possibly endure. Madeline decided to take her two little girls and leave the house she and her husband had shared.
Madeline and her girls spent that night with a friend. The next day, as Madeline was leaving work, her abusive husband, Barry appeared. Barry attempted to pull Madeline from her vehicle, telling her that he loved her and wanted her and the girls to come back home to him.
Madeline’s co-workers witnessed this incident and immediately called the police. Barry was arrested; charged with assault and battery and attempting to elude police officers. A protective order was issued to Madeline.
The next day bond was set and Barry was released. That day in court Madeline stated to the Victim Witness Director that she knew Barry would kill her. Calls were made to every domestic violence shelter in the state, and there was space for Madeline but not the two girls. Madeline decided to stay with a friend several counties away.
Days later, Madeline arrived at work to find Barry on the roof of her building. Co-workers again witnessed this and called the police. Again, Barry was arrested and brought back to court for violation of a protective order. Barry was again released on the same bond. Several days later, while waiting at a stoplight, Barry ran towards Madeline’s car, shouting for her to come home. He was arrested a third time, and brought back to court. This time a more substantial bond was set, and Barry was incarcerated.
Madeline moved back to the Farmville, VA area, to an undisclosed residence, so that the girls could attend school and be close to family. The Farmville Police were called each day to escort her as she left work, to prevent any more incidents from occurring. The Longwood Campus Police checked on Madeline and the girls on a regular basis, both day and night.
Court day came; Madeline arrived at the courthouse to find Barry standing in the hall, waiting for her. It was then, Madeline learned that her abuser had been bonded the previous day. Madeline had not been notified of Barry’s release. Following court that day, Madeline and the Victim Witness Director spoke daily, trying to help ensure Madeline and the girls’ safety.
On September 6, 1998, Barry went to Madeline’s apartment, broke in through a window, and ordered his two young daughters outside. Barry shot and killed Madeline and then himself.
Madeline Gearheart Mitchell was known for her kindness, her love for her children, and her beautiful smile. After she died at the hands of her abusive husband, community members came together and formed Madeline’s House in 1999 with the hope that others like Madeline would get the help they needed before it was too late. Since then, the agency, Southside Center for Violence Prevention expanded its services and and serves sexual violence survivors, as well. We worked tirelessly in honor of Madeline and all survivors to create a community free from violence. Unfortunately, these services ceased in November 2022.