TAMPA — A man authorities say was fatally shot by his wife during a fight late Sunday night had been arrested twice before on charges he assaulted his wife.
Robert Walker was charged in early 2010 with trying to strangle his wife, Cynthia. He also was charged in that incident with obstruction of justice after investigators said he attempted to grab a baton from a Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputy who was making the arrest.
Walker eventually enrolled in a domestic violence program; prosecutors dropped the charges a year later after he completed the program.
In 2008, Robert Walker was arrested on a domestic violence charge, but prosecutors didn’t move forward on that case either because Cynthia Walker wouldn’t cooperate with investigators, said Hillsborough County sheriff’s spokeswoman Debbie Carter.
Carter said a letter from prosecutors was in the file saying Cynthia Walker “had been contacted by the state and has not responded to the state’s request to assist in the prosecution in this case.”
Deputies Sunday night were called to the couple’s home at 3913 Crosstree Lane in Valrico and found Robert Walker, 65, dead on the floor from a gunshot wound.
Cynthia Walker told deputies that the 10 p.m. Sunday shooting came during a violent fight in their home. The 56-year-old woman remained at the scene where she was temporarily detained and questioned by detectives.
Deputies said she cooperated with their investigation and the evidence supported her statements that she was defending herself. Detectives released Cynthia Walker after consulting with prosecutors with the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office, though the investigation is continuing.
According to sheriff’s office records, both of Robert Walker’s arrests on domestic violence charges came after he threatened and assaulted his wife.
In the April 13, 2008, arrest, he threatened Cynthia Walker with a shotgun and hit her on her left arm, leaving a bruise, according to an arrest report.
In the Jan. 31, 2010, arrest, Robert Walker grabbed his wife by her hair, punched and choked her until she grabbed an object and clubbed him over the head, records say.
The domestic violence program he enrolled in after the second arrest are offered by a handful of licensed professionals in the county, said Mindy Murphy, CEO of The Spring of Tampa Bay, which offers shelter and services for abuse victims in the region since its inception in 1977.
Murphy said she couldn’t speak specifically about the Walker case, or say if Cynthia Walker had ever sought help from The Spring.
“It’s terribly sad,” Murphy said, “that she had no other option.”
Domestic violence at times seems to be a problem that never goes away, she said, but nowadays is being reported more than ever.
“The statistics in the United States show that one in four women will become a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime,” she said. “Worldwide, it’s one in three.”
That amounts to a lot of victims, she said, “but there are an awful lot of batterers out there, doing the battering, too,” she said. The solution to the problem of domestic violence must include the perpetrators, she said.
The vast majority of domestic abusers are men, she said. “Domestic violence is a problem in our country and our community and it won’t go away until we explore the problem; the broader issues.”
Women battered by a husband or boyfriend might be willing but unable to leave, said Roseanne Pupoli, also with The Spring of Tampa Bay.
“It’s not that they don’t want to leave,” she said. “It’s not easy, it’s a hard process. They say, ‘Do I stay and deal with being abused, stay with a roof over my head, a place for the kids and food on table?’ ”
Still, more and more women chose to take action, she said, by either calling the law or just leaving.
“It’s still far from where we need to be,” she said. “It’s no longer a women’s issue. It’s societal issue, a community issue.”