Georgia Gunzer: Betrayed by Pierce County, WA Courts

Georgia Gunzer’s murder on Saturday in Tacoma barely made the news.  Mark Fulghum, official spokesperson for the Tacoma police department, chalked it up to just another domestic violence murder.  Too bad.  So sad.  Oh, well.  He might have gotten away with the callous indifference but for Ms. Gunzer’s loyal friends.

The Tacoma News-Tribune, the infamous lap-dog newspaper that conspired in the betrayal and murder of Crystal Brame, published few details of Ms. Gunzer’s murder.  I am so incensed by the number of people who have been murdered due to the callous indifference to domestic violence in Pierce County, WA that I have created a web page to shine a bright spotlight on the cops and the courts.

Thank God for KIRO7 which was the only local media outlet to report the story in-depth yesterday.  David Quinlan reported that the alleged 35-year-old murderer has been arrested.  Ms. Gunzer had sought an order of protection against her drug dealer, convicted felon, ex-boyfriend Al;phonso Albert Bell~ he is the father of their 10-year-old daughter ~ when he was about to be released from prison because she was deathly afraid for her safety.  A Pierce County judge refused to grant her an order of protection.

Update:  According to the News Tribune, Court Commissioner Mark L. Gelman denied granting the order of protection because Ms. Gunzer had visited Mr. Bell multiple times while he was in prison.  This factor outweighed a previous assault and restraining order ~ which Mr. Bell violated repeatedly ~ and harassing calls from prison ~ a felony in many states which would have extended Mr. Bell’s sentence.  Apparently, Commissioner Gelman hasn’t heard the ancient adage about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer.  And, he doesn’t get that a little girl is going to need her mother’s assistance to get from Tacoma to Kitsap County to visit her father in prison.  He might be a convicted felon, but he’s still her daddy.  If Commissioner Gelman isn’t able to see the red flags in this case, he is incompetent to hear domestic violence restraining order cases.

Sadly, she was correct.  She was stabbed to death in her apartment in Tacoma on Saturday morning.  Her young daughter and five of her friends were sleeping in the apartment when it happened.  The alleged perpetrator left the apartment to call 911.

Cynde Marckmann, a registered nurse and Ms. Gunzer’s co-worker at Sound Family Medicine which is a health clinic in Puyallup, told Mr. Quinlan:

I hope that justice is served.  Obviously, he is locked away.  I hope our justice system will wake up and look at these women who come for protection and give them protection ~ that they will listen to these women.

This afternoon the Tacoma News Tribune reported that Alphonso A. Bell has been charged with first-degree murder. 

The Pierce County court system hasn’t yet responded to KIRO7’s inquiry into why the restraining order was refused. 

Just as I was about to publish this post, KING5 ran a story by Linda Brill on the evening news.  I learned that Ms. Gunzer’s 10-year-old daughter opened the door for police responding to Mr. Bell’s 911 call.  She was having a sleep-over with her friends while her mother was murdered.  Obviously, all the little girls are severely traumatized.

Ms. Brill included a tape of Ms. Gunzer’s friends who said she felt she needed to be nice to Mr. Bell to protect herself after she had been denied an order of protection.  I cannot fathom this level of deathly fear, but I fully appreciate this level of desperation.  Ms. Marckmann summed it up accurately:

I think the system failed her, and I think the system is broken.

Ms. Brill has joined KIRO7 in a demand for answers from the Pierce County courts.  It’s about damned time for the mainstream media to start asking hard questions.

Deborah Horne at KIRO7 has just reported that the Pierce County prosecutor is also asking hard questions, and a domestic violence expert believes the order of protection request was littered with red flag warnings that Ms. Gunzer was, in fact, in mortal danger.

Update:  During an e-mail exhange with Jack Cameron, who chronicles Tacoma murders on his blog, I recalled that an order of protection would have made Ms. Gunzer eligible to join Washington’s excellent Address Confidentiality Program (ACP).  When I called the angels at our ACP, I learned that one is no longer required because in many cases time is of the essence.  Still, it probably would have triggered a process that would have let her know this fabulous resource was available to her.  She could have been safe.  Mr. Bell wouldn’t have known how to find her and her daughter.

There will be a candlelight vigil for Ms. Gunzer Friday, January 28 at 7:00 PM at Sound Family Medicine.  My heart goes out to Ms. Gunzer’s young daughter and her friends.

24 responses to “Georgia Gunzer: Betrayed by Pierce County, WA Courts

  1. “There, but by the grace of God…”

    This kind of nonsense happens in Ellis Co too – I lived the last 8 mos of my marriage in mortal fear… My ex having moved upstairs while the baby & I stayed downstairs (he was trying to force me out, you see).
    So it’s hard to tell at this distance how much of his threats were sincere, & how much was sheer intimidation – but I kept my pistol in my nightstand & told him that if he walked through the door of my bedroom carrying HIS pistol (he was fond of sitting up late at night, drinking his whisky & fondling it), I would shoot first & ask questions later.
    I had nightmares for months later, imagining I’d heard his truck coming down the driveway.

    (Oh yeah I asked for a restraining order too – never got one bcz he denied everything. He was clever enough to act sane around authority figures.)

  2. Are you safe now, Val? Sociopaths are good at acting all “who me?” when challenged with criminal behavior. IMHO, it takes a pretty sorry excuse of a “man” to intimidate those they pledged to love and honor. And, it is a sorry excuse of a “justice” system that turns a blind eye and/or minimizes the behavior.

    Another word for initimidation is battery which is a crime. I hear you about the sound of tires on a driveway. While I admire your courage, I also appreciate the toll it takes. I hope that today you are well, safe, and happy.

    Sending hugs,
    Anne Caroline

  3. Georgia Gunzer should have went to a battered women’s shelter, because a protection order cannot stop her from being stabbed.

  4. So you are saying she should up root her daughter her life because of some As% H#l# felon? No that is not how it shoud be he should of been monitored better. I get being scared & doing what you have to do to keep that person happy. If you have never been in the situation you have no right commenting. Keep your comments to yourself until you really truly know whats going on.

  5. Earl,

    Sadly, the lights are on but nobody’s home at the shelter in Tacoma. IMHO, Pierce County WA is the absolutely worst place in the country ~ except for the state of OR ~ to experience DV. There’s no protection for victims. None. Nada. Zip. You’re on your own.

    This is the place that gave the DC Sniper a pass ~ he went on to murder 17 people and shoot 10 more. This is the place where the police chief murdered his wife in front of their kids. It is corrupt as hell.

    Thanks for your concern,
    Anne Caroline

  6. Ms. Furth,

    Earl Richards is one of the greatest champions women experiencing DV can meet. His comment was well-intentioned. I think perhaps when someone like Earl works so hard to actually protect women that it is hard to fathom a system as fucked up as Pierce County, WA.

    I absolutely agree with you that Bell should have been monitored better. Heather Thompason’s abusive, convicted felon, ex-husband, for example, got an extended prison sentence for making threats to her from prison in SC. WA prides itself as being enlightened on the issue of DV, but I keep finding ~ via Pierce County ~ how little actual protection people have from DV perpetrators.

    I counted up the dead bodies this morning for Deborah Horne at KIRO in the sensational stories arising from Pierce County, WA since Crystal Brame’s murder. 28. Five of them cops. One county. This doesn’t include the stories that Mark Fulghum was able to sweep under the carpet.

    So, Ms. Furth, I welcome and applaud your outrage. When that judge denied her protection order request, I think Georgia Gunzer knew she was a dead woman. She just didn’t know when it would happen. What’s going to happen to her little girl now? And, what’s going to happen to her five little friends who one reporter said discovered the body?

    Sending hugs,
    Anne Caroline

  7. For Anne:

    There is no addressee in your comments. I could not figure-out whether your comments were directed at Caroline or at me. Georgia would very definitely have to root-up her life and her daughter’s life to avoid a killer., and save her life. This person is not a__ h___, this person is a killer. With a killer at large, Georgia and her daughter would be much safer in a BWS, then, relying on a monitor and on the corrupt, police force.

    Earl Richards

  8. Just so you all know Georgia was one of my best friends. So this has hit hard I have known her daughter since she was 1. I am angry and yes I am angry at everyone right now. So please don’t take my comments personally just take them!!

  9. Thanks so much for your heartfelt concern, Anne…
    Yes, I’m doing alright now – these events happened almost 11 yrs ago, we’re getting along not-too-badly at the moment, but I still feel some PTSD-like effects.
    (& look, you made the long-distance diagnosis – I think the man IS a sociopath. When I no longer conformed to his wants/needs I was less than useless to him)

  10. Interesting, Val. Sounds like he is also a narcissist ~ which is somewhat a distinction without a difference IMHO ~ seems likke narcisssits also tend to be sociopaths.

    PTSD is a bitch.

  11. Oh, Ann, I am so sorry for your loss. I am so terribly worried about her daughter. You have every right to be angry ~ that is a reasonable response to this catastrophic system failure. Mark Gelman IMHO has his head up his ass and is absolutely incompetent to hear cases like Georgia’s.

    My own deep regret is that without the restraining order I doubt anyone thought to tell her about our Address Confidentiality Program. Bell would have never been able to find her. I’ve been in it since 1999, and it is fabulous.

    I hope to meet you Friday night at the candlelight vigil. In the meantime, please feel free to say whatever you need to say here. If you or any of the people who knew and loved Georgia want to post something on my blog, the invitation is open.

  12. Earl,

    As you have probably already read, Ms. Furth was a good friend to Georgia and feels very protective of her daughter.

    Since I published this post, I have learned that it was her daughter who figured out how to unlock the bedroom door to give police access to her mother’s body. She had heard them argue earlier in the evening, but she had no idea that the silence was because her mother had been stabbed 20 times and was dead.

    I can’t fathom the impact of seeing this on a half dozen 10-year-old girls who were having a slumber party. I’ve heard one of the little girls can’t stop crying.

    Georgia’s friends have been doing a phenomenal job in making sure this case doesn’t get swept under the carpet. They are directing their profound grief in a positive direction, and I hope this time there will be real change. I think it is VERY interesting that a blogger has more credibility than the local newspaper in covering this story. The people in Pierce County have wanted change for a very long time. Each time I hear of a story like Georgia’s I pray this time will be different. . .we’ll finally get the change everyone wants.

    Good to hear from you again, Earl. We need you here down in the States!

    Anne Caroline

  13. Georgia should have been permitted to disappear, forever, into the witness protection program.

  14. I hear you, Earl. Georgia’s case was a catastrophic system failure of epic proportions. The Department of Corrections, for example, was supposed to assure her safety upon his release. Instead, these idiots weighed in on her restraining order request suggesting that her visits to him in prison were proof that she wasn’t, in fact, terrified of him.

  15. Pierce County prosecutors on Monday filed a first-degree murder count against 35-year-old Alphonso Albert Bell and a not-guilty plea was entered on his behalf at an arraignment.Court Commissioner Patrick Oishi ordered Bell jailed on 2 million bail.I feel very strongly that our system failed her said Cydney Marckmann the victims friend. She also said she previously had a protection order against him in Thurston County.This person has in the past made threatening remarks and has put his hands on me numerous times Gunzer wrote.Commissioner Mark Gelman denied the protection order after reading a letter from a state Department of Corrections employee that said Gunzer had been to visit Bell at least six times while he was jailed in Kitsap County.The victims friends and family members packed the courtroom Monday to see Bell arraigned. She was always positive thats the thing that sticks with me the most.Stacia Glenn 253-597-8653 …

  16. I am a domestic violence victim advocate who has worked extensively for victims of domestic violence. I just wanted to point out that here in Washington state, victims of domestic violence do not need to obtain a protection order (or any other type of court order for that matter) to gain access to the Address Confidentiality Program. They simply need to contact their local domestic violence program/hotline (like Domestic Abuse Women’s Network, New Beginnings or Eastside Domestic Violence Program) and meet with a domestic violence advocate. The advocate and survivor will discuss the ACP program and together ascertain whether the survivor’s situation is a good fit for the program and will do relevant safety planning. The service is free and many survivors find it helpful. It is not, however, like the federal witness protection program. Just like a protection order, the Address Confidentiality Program is just one part of a survivor’s overall safety plan and she will want to work with a dv advocate to develop a comprehensive safety plan. I also wanted to point out that under the protection order statute, it does not matter whether a survivor has had recent contact with her abuser as long as she can still show that she is experiencing “fear of imminent physical harm”. Although it is hard to guage whether she was rightly or wrongly denied her protection order without actually reading her protection order petition and being in court to hear her testimony, I would be willing to bet that like many women, she was likely wrongly denied her protection order. In my opinion, what is really needed to assist and protect women like Georgia is an expansion of a wonderful program in King County called the King County Protection Order Advocacy Program. That service has advocates highly trained in domestic violence and court orders, who assist protection order petitioners both before, during and after their protection order hearings. They help victims with their court paperwork, do safety planning, give information about the different court orders, stand with petitioners in court, and connect them to domestic violence services and other community resources. Why this program is not replicated in all other WA counties is beyond me. In fact, if Linda Brill is doing a piece on Georgia, she may want to do a follow up story about why the King County Protection Order Advocacy Program just got a large chunk of its funding cut and how that will affect protection order petitioners and community safety at large.

  17. Thank you, Ms. McKay, for sharing your expertise. Sadly, the resources available in King County aren’t available in many other counties here in WA State. King County survivors are lucky to have Kathy Lambert on the King County Council. She is a DV survivor and steadfast champion. You would get further talking to Ms. Lambert than you will hoping Linda Brill will be your champion in terms of getting funding restored.

    Tonight at the candlelight vigil I learned that Ms. Gunzer was not aware of the Address Confidentiality Program. As a participant, I believe it is far more valuable to people who have experienced ~ I don’t use the word “victim” on this website except for people who have been murdered ~ domestic violence and need to escape a “pit bull” abuser.

    The other thing I learned tonight is that Mr. Bell stabbed her 37 times ~ not the 20 times previously reported. This indicates to me that she was likely murdered after conveying to Mr. Bell in terms he could comprehend that their relationship was over. I think her instincts were accurate that he is a “pit bull” abuser which means she was at grave risk.

    While I think King County has done many amazing things in the arena of DV, most survivors don’t get the kind of counseling on how to survive a “pit bull” abuser that they need. If you have insights in this area, I invite you to share them with my visitors. I will publish any well and concisely written guest column.

    The systemic dysfunctions in Pierce County need to end. There’s no excuse for a judge to lack the training and competence to recognize red flags like the ones presented in Ms. Gunzer’s petition for a restraining order.

    Thanks for visiting and leaving your comment, Ms. McKay. I hope you will come back again.

    Anne Caroline

  18. I don’t know if a protection order would have helped or not. I do know that they have been issued for little or no reason ” it’s better to error on the side of caution”. This murder is tragic in any way you look at it. I believe the judicial system needs accountability. I have been a victim of,
    Mark gelman from pierce county. He stated he did not believe me because I was a convited felon. I objected and informed him he was wrong he argued and told me he looked up the case himself. I again objected and he said i was convicted in “this court house”. Gelman told me the cause # and threw my case out. thinking the computer system had made a mistake. I went to the clerks office to locate that case. I found it and yes my name was on it i was the victim in the case and the arresting officer yes thats right the arresting officer……… Mark gelman cost me $4,000 trying to protect my children. all i got was slandered and the presiding judge said sorry…… Gelman needs to be tossed off the bench and he needs to be held accountable…..

  19. Wes,

    Thank you for this comment. I’m sorry ~ not surprised ~ to hear about the injustice you expereinced in Pierce County.

    I agree. Mark Gelman has no business being on the bench. I’ve heard several stories that he’s totally incompetent.

    Good luck to you,
    Anne Caroline

  20. I read all your comments and this is sometimes hard to read. I growing up was friends with both Alphonso and Georgia. I knew them prior to them getting in a relationship, I knew them while they were in a relationship, and also after. Growing up and loving both of them as friends is a hard situation to be in. In no way did Georgia expect or deserve this. Just because you file for a restraining order, does not mean you fear death. This is more at the time being you fear the abuse. Honestly if Georgia thought her life was in danger, she would not have put herself in this situation, because she is a strong woman. But also, this was not her fear… it was the abuse. Georgia loved Alphonso, just as he loved her. Everyone from an outside perspective can comment on a typical run away from a DV situation to escape death, but when it comes to our reality, death was not what we ever thought. I guarantee Georgia didn’t think that when she had him over, and I also guarantee Alphonso didn’t either. This was an escalated situation… a very sad situation. Now because of this…. we have two lifes lost… and the one that pays the most is the child. As a friend of both parties here, it is hard to throw hate and discontent… but only try to understand, and feel sorrow and pain for the overall situation. Georgia and Alphonso were BOTH very loved here in Kitsap County… by many. Both were very popular, very fun, good people. This is a hard loss for all of us. We have a friend lost, and a friend paying for the loss.

  21. Both Friends,

    Thank you for leaving this very compassionate comment. The information that I have is that Georgia didn’t invite Alphonso to her apartment, and she was very much in fear for her life. Yet, you are absolutely correct. This is one of those moments in time that I know for sure many people would like to see get a “do over” with a different outcome.

    I too am quite concerned about her daughter. She’s lost both parents, and she was witness to events that will impact her for the rest of her life. She will need the love and support of everyone close to her.

    Sending hugs,
    Anne Caroline

  22. I just came upon your blog and I thank you for being a voice. I am going through a messy divorce right now and Commissiner Gelman is a sad, pathetic man. My soon to be ex has broken the restraining the
    numerous times and Gelman doesn’t even address it. Gelman has agreed with my husband, that I should list the home and maintain it as a showcase home, with the realtor as the “judge” as to whether I am doing that or not. Gelman is literally setting me up to fail. Now I can’t be made to sold it but if I don’t keep the home in showcase quality I will be evicted. We own a business and a building but my soon to be ex wasn’t made to list that or the 14 cars, boat, snowmobiles, etc he has in his possession. Gelman is set to see that his own agenda is completed, he cares nothing for the children or the woman that come before him.

    order numerous times and

  23. CK,

    Oh, dear. You are why I write my blog. I hope you will take the time to check out my posts on “litigation abuse.”

    I also want to strongly encourage you to make an appointment ASAP with Cyd Marckmann at Sound Family Medicine. ObamaCares requires medical providers to screen for domestic violence, and I’m hoping new treatment pathways will be a more viable solution for women walking in your shoes in Pierce County, WA because there sure as hell isn’t much justice in your criminal “justice” system.

    I also encourage you to check out Mildred Muhammad (ex-wife of the DC Sniper), who has become a well-known advocate.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have the resources to help individuals, but I have written over 500 posts to share everything I have learned so far. Ironically, Cyd and I have decided to start collaborating this week on viable treatment pathways. Your comment helps me appreciate that I need to schedule an appointment with her too.

    Trust your instincts. Create a circle of protection and start rounding up a posse of professionals to support you. We don’t have a well-defined map, but there are some very smart women who have walked in your shoes and are networking to find viable solutions.

    Best wishes,
    Anne Caroline

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