Domestic violence experts: Nurse’s case familiar

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New Rochelle nurse Tina Adovasio’s killing just weeks after she filed for divorce from her abusive husband appears to follow a pattern all too familiar to experts on domestic violence both in the Lower Hudson Valley and elsewhere.

“The most dangerous time for a woman in a relationship with abuse is when she decides to leave,” said Lynn Sheinkin, deputy director of programs and services at the Rockland Family Shelter. “The abuse doesn’t stop, and often it escalates.”

Adovasio, 40, had consulted a lawyer and filed for divorce in late February from Edwin Coello, a former New York City police housing officer who relatives said had previously beaten Adovasio.

The nurse’s family said she was so fearful of her husband that she had sent the couple’s 5-year-old daughter to live with her grandparents in Dutchess County.

Adovasio, a maternity nurse at Sound Shore Medical Center, had also told her lawyer that if anything happened to her, Coello should be a suspect.

Adovasio’s body was found late Wednesday off the Taconic State Parkway in Yorktown, near Mohansic Golf Course, five days after she went missing from her Bronx home. Police say she died of asphyxiation. Police said Adovasio also suffered blunt trauma to the head and chest.

Coello is a suspect, police said, but he had not been charged.

Adovasio’s fears would have been a red flag had she reached out to anyone skilled in domestic violence issues for help, said CarlLa Horton, executive director of Hope’s Door, a Pleasantville organization that helps victims.

As soon as anyone contacts the organization, workers ask questions related to safety planning and the potential level of danger posed by the spouse or domestic partner, she said.

“It’s the most important thing we do,” Horton said. “We ask the victim, ‘How afraid are you?’ and ‘What do you think he’s capable of doing?'”
Several factors heighten the risks for women leaving an abusive relationship, Horton said.

Studies have shown that the top three risk factors are the abuser’s access to weapons, presence of children in the home who are not related to the abuser and the abuser experiencing unemployment.

Adovasio’s situation would have raised immediate concerns, Horton said.

In addition to her obvious fear of Coello, her husband was a former police officer who had to be familiar with weapons, and the couple lived in the Bronx with Adovasio’s three older children, ages 11, 15 and 16, from a previous marriage.

Nancy Levin, director of development and external affairs at My Sisters’ Place, a White Plains organization that helps victims of domestic violence, said that domestic violence has become so pervasive in our society that it is now considered a public health issue.

Studies suggest that one woman in four is a victim of abuse at the hands of a spouse or intimate partner, she said.

In New York in 2009, 89 people were killed by their intimate partners, two fewer than in 2008.

But the number of intimate-partner homicide victims who were female — 68 — remained the same in 2009 as in 2008, as compared with 59 women killed by their intimate partners in 2007, according to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.

“This is a crime the affects every walk of life,” Levin said. “No one is immune, and no one is more easily disposed.”