GASTON COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - Each October, the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office features a purple hue. The top of the building is illuminated with purple light and the bushes surrounding the front entrance are decorated with strands of purple lights. This is done to signify that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
This year there’s a new addition to the display. In the building’s front lobby, several clocks have been mounted to one of the walls. Next to each clock is a label with information about a person who has lost their life to domestic violence in Gaston County.
There is a label for Gastonia’s Brian Braswell who was killed by his father while trying to protect his mother. There is a label for Christopher Caskey who was killed during a custody exchange. There is a label for Barbara Burkett who was killed by her husband.
WBTV spoke with Burkett’s daughter, Kim Merrill, in an interview Monday night.
“We thought we were a perfect family you know and things going great at the time and your whole world turns upside down,” explained Merrill.
She explained that a brain injury changed her father and made him more violent, but she never thought it could lead to him becoming a killer. She still remembers the day she learned she had lost both of her parents.
“My brother had called and said that our father had killed our mother and proceeded to kill himself in the same day,” explained Merrill. “We were somewhat aware that some different things were happening with him, but never anything this horrible. We never dreamed that something like this could happen to our family.”
Merrill explained that life without her parents has been difficult, and not a day goes by that she doesn’t think of them. Her hope is that her story and the work of the sheriff’s office will motivate others to pay attention to what’s happening around them.
“Our voices are power and we need to talk and talk to others and tell others and whatever the situation may be, use it as a tool to help others. This month to me is very important,” explained Burkett.
Gaston County Sheriff Alan Cloninger is holding a special press conference Tuesday to talk about raising domestic violence awareness in the community.
The lights on the sheriff’s office building will be purple every night for the entire month.