She tried to make her marriage to a violent new husband work, and when that failed, she did what she was supposed to do; she summoned the courage to leave. She got not one, but two restraining orders. She switched coasts, to take shelter with the only relatives she had in this vast country, and put 3,ooo miles between herself and her abuser. He drove across that vastness, with a single purpose: to take back what was “his”.
She did everything right, and he still hunted her down, and killed her, in front of the Holy of Holies, in God’s own house, while a hapless congregation was on their knees, reciting prayers for the dead.
A 24-year old Indian immigrant from Kerala trying to escape an abusive marriage, was killed by her husband, who also shot two other persons injuring them critically at a church in New Jersey. [express]
The shootings happened at 11:44 a.m., a witness said.
The gunman ran from the church and drove away in a green convertible Jeep Wrangler with a black soft top and the California license 5JHD200, said the police, who identified him as Joseph Pallipurath, 27, of Sacramento. He remained at large Sunday night as the New Jersey State Police and law enforcement authorities in northern New Jersey widened a manhunt on highways and at transportation terminals. [nyt]
Police kept the parishioners inside the defiled sanctuary for two hours, to gather statements. Then,
Stunned, teary-eyed congregants emerged from their Clifton church this afternoon after a gunman shot three people in the head, killing his estranged wife from an arranged marriage, and leaving the other two victims clinging to life.
Reshma James, 24, died about 4 p.m., police said. The other two victims, identified by fellow parishioners as Dennis John Malloosseril, 23, and Silvy Perincheril, 47, were in what police termed â€œvery critical condition.â€
Friends of Malloosseril said he was near death and family members were making arrangements to donate his organs late tonight. [NJ.com]
Malloosseril did die tonight. Besides being on the church’s Board of Directors, he was a computer analyst who took responsibility for the parish website. Had Malloosseril survived, this heroic man would have celebrated his birthday on Tuesday. Instead, he is a victim of what the New York Times called “the climax of a violent domestic quarrel that had reached from California to India to New Jersey over the past year”. Gruesome details regarding the “violent climax”, from a congregant left numb from the horror:
â€œI didnâ€™t see anything â€” I just heard the shots,â€ said 15-year-old Keziah Alummoottio. â€œThen everyone was screaming, we got down on the floor. I was so scared, just wishing it was a dream. People started calling everyone on their cellphone, but I couldnâ€™t. I just lay there.â€
Alummoottio, who stood barefoot on the street after leaving the church, was oblivious to the bitterly cold pavement. She said she took her shoes off in the churchâ€™s vestibule before the service as tradition allows, but they â€œhad too much blood on them and the police said I had to leave them there.â€[NJ.com]
The church shootout sent shockwaves across the country. [rediff]
Indeed, a commenter abroad emailed our tip line, saying the tragedy was in the “news, even in faraway Australia.”
The Clifton police described Mr. Pallipurath as armed and dangerous, 5 feet 8 inches tall and 160 pounds. They said active restraining orders had been issued in California and New Jersey against him after domestic violence complaints by his wife, who had moved recently to New Jersey. Detective Capt. Robert Rowan said it appeared the gunman had driven from California to try to force her to return with him.
Members of the church gave a more elaborate account of the womanâ€™s hardships, citing an arranged and abusive marriage that had left her terrified. A family friend, Aniyan Panavelil, said Ms. James, a registered nurse who grew up in India, had wed Mr. Pallipurath, an American, in India a year ago in an arrangement made by their families.
It was unclear if they had met before their wedding.[nyt]
Is this really relevant? You can meet someone before your marriage, hell, you can meet someone and know them for years, and only find out later that they are capable of nightmarish abuse.
James had moved from India…to California in January with her husband. But church members said the relationship soon turned violent.
“He was beating her,” Record quoted Rev Thomas Abraham Lahayil, the church’s vicar, as saying…
She fled Sacramento in California where the couple had their home and moved in with her cousin Perincheril, who is the church’s Sunday school teacher.
James has no immediate family in the US and her parents are en route from India, Church members were quoted as saying.[express]
I’m not sure what else paavam Reshma could have done to escape her tormentor. She left him and moved in with her family– family which, thank GOD, didn’t tell her to “make it work” or “think of the shame you’ll cause us”. And yet, that wasn’t enough, fleeing 3,ooo miles was not enough, none of it was enough to save her or prevent two other innocent people from being harmed.
I’ve read various articles which state that the murderer is American, which has me wondering if he was a 2nd gen ABD, like most of us. If he is, then shame on us as a community, for being surrounded by PSAs, movies of the week, posters on the walls of our high schools, dedicated non-profits…and still not getting it. Shame on us for sweeping violence under the rug. Shame on us for guilting victims in to staying in nightmarish relationships, out of some misplaced sense of duty to what? Family? Tradition? Our oft-vaunted culture? The same culture which, while extraordinary in many ways, also places a premium on honor, and teaches little ones that it’s okay to rain your wrath and pain on those whom you love most, because that’s what many of us saw our parents do, and no one ever tells?
The cycle never stops.
Something needs to change. No, not something. Someone. SomeoneS. We need to change. We need to treat domestic violence as more than an afterthought or a distasteful, unfortunate situation which happens to other people, people whom we then whisper about, but don’t help. I saw it, over and over again while growing up. Everybody knew who was hurting, nobody did a damned thing.
We need to switch the burden of shame from the victim to the abuser, to call out such behavior collectively and condemn it, thoroughly, until it stops.
I’m not alone in feeling this anguish. Approximately a dozen of you emailed me about this senseless tragedy, while expressing your own grief; almost all of you used the word “community“.
shows that domestic violence occurs in the desi community and for the perpertrators nothing including life, liberty, and choice is inviolable
Something to inform the Indian community about. There are so many domestic violence stories which occur in our community that go unreported and unheard.
And most heartbreaking of all, from another Malayalee woman:
This story reminds me so much of myself. When my daughter was three, I tried to leave my then-husband, who abused me. I was afraid he would kill me. I told someone, and they offered to help me. I almost left, but then I realized he would just come after me and kill me and the person who tried to help. I didn’t care about my life, but I couldn’t let someone innocent die. That’s why I stayed…
There has to be another way. There has to be. My prayers are with Reshma, Dennis, Silvy, their families, that parish, and all of us.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224 (help available in 170 languages).
An important note I hadn’t even thought of:
Computer use can be monitored and is impossible to completely clear. If you are afraid your internet and/or computer usage might be monitored, please use a safer computer, call your local hotline, and/or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224[NDVH]
UPDATE #1- We’ve received new information, in the last hour. Georgia-area mutineers, keep your eyes peeled for evil:
Police are searching for the suspect, 27-year-old Joseph M. Pallipurath of Sacramento, Calif., in Georgia, where he has relatives. [AP]
UPDATE #2- Some of you have asked for statistics or more information. We’ve written about domestic violence before. The following posts may be of interest to you: Wifebeating in India (updated w/ child abuse figures), Wifebeating worldwide, National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
UPDATE #3- a reader lets us know that the murderer’s Father wants him to turn himself in (thanks, “more info”):
Mathai Pallipurath, the suspect’s father, told The Associated Press Monday he doesn’t know his son’s whereabouts and hasn’t had any contact with him. But he urged his son to surrender, and asked his son’s friends to do the same if they hear from him.
Mathai Pallipurath said he had not seen his daughter-in-law since the family made a trip to India in September. She stayed behind in the southern state of Kerala when he and his son returned to the United States. They had sent her a plane ticket to return in early October, but she didn’t come back and they had not heard from her.
Pallipurath said he did not know his daughter-in-law had returned to the U.S. and didn’t know his son, who lives in an apartment in Sacramento, had tracked her down in New Jersey until he learned about Sunday’s church shooting. [newsday]
Mathai Pallipurath went on to say that he thought the couple was happy and that his son was a handsome, nice guy. No. The man whom he murdered deserves those accolades. To those of you who are grieving for your friend (I’ve seen your status updates on FB), my sincerest condolences. He sounds like he was an amazing human being.
UPDATE #4- This is Dennis John’s picture, from the Facebook group created in his memory:
May his (and Reshma’s) memory be eternal.
UPDATE #5- Joseph Pallipurath, the killer, is neither 1st nor 2nd gen; he’s 1.5. Born in Kerala, he came here for high school. I add this update because I think it underscores how pointless it is to cast aspersions on ABDs or DBDs as if one group is more prone to misogyny.
UPDATE #6- One of the victim’s family members speaks:
I remember discussions last summer when I was in Kerala about this marriage. Reshma’s mother lives 2 houses down from my paternal grandparents. Reshma comes from a broken home – her mother left her father (who shares the same family name as I) and settled where she lives now (across the road from her sister). What I heard last summer was that many of the relatives advised her not to go through w/ the marriage. I’m not sure exactly how they met but I will tell you it wasn’t a straight out arranged marriage from what I know. They met somehow and I think despite what she had heard about him from others, she thought he was a changed man. I’m sure she also thought that this was a way for her family life to get better since she would be going to America after a short while as he was a US citizen. Once she got a job, she’d be able to send money back to her mom like my parents do even now. [sm]
UPDATE #7- 1:15am. Breaking news. THEY FOUND HIM! (Thanks, rani):
A California man accused of driving to New Jersey and fatally shooting his estranged wife and another man inside a church on Sunday has been captured in Georgia.
New Jersey district U.S. Marshal James Plousis said 27-year-old Joseph M. Pallipurath was captured around midnight Monday in Monroe, east of Atlanta. [msnbc]
May justice be served.