Lisa Spicknall knows that domestic violence can devastate an entire family and community. The mother who grew up in Pasadena, Maryland experienced the unthinkable. Richard W. Spicknall II, her former husband, murdered their two young children in 1999. But Richard’s history with Lisa began when the teenagers dated. She explained that Richard began physically abusing her when she was 17 years old.
“The first time he ever put hands on me, he choked me,” Lisa said.
She had been accused of cheating after going out with friends. According to Lisa, Richard began isolating her from her friends. Although Lisa’s mother tried to speak with her to dig deeper about issues with Richard, her daughter was “a kid in love” with her first serious boyfriend.
The situation intensified. Lisa said that Richard even showed up at her place of employment to check on her.
“It truly took me eight years to realize how out of control it was,” Lisa said.
Getting married and having a baby excited Lisa. Her ex-husband reportedly said all the right things about getting help. Sometimes things would go okay for months, but domestic violence returned in the household. By 1996, a precious baby girl named Destiny was born. Lisa was a stay-at-home mother. A little boy, Richie, was born in 1997. Having children led Lisa to take a stand against her former husband.
“I fought for family to be a part of my life, for them to be there, so I really didn’t have to go through this alone anymore,” Lisa said, mentioning that Richard constantly threatened her life.
Richard controlled everything such as finances, vehicles, and even Lisa’s birth certificate. He held onto anything that she would potentially need to move forward.
By December 15, 1999, Lisa was granted a divorce. Her children would not survive and experience their mother’s happiness. Approximately nine months after Lisa filed for and was granted a protective order, Richard used his vacation time with their children. On September 8, 1999, he picked up Destiny and Richie, supposedly to take the children to Ocean City for a few days. On September 9, 1999, Richard’s father called Lisa. He told her that his son had been carjacked and the carjacker took their children. She was instructed to call the state police in Easton, Maryland.
“I hung up the phone and that’s exactly what I did,” Lisa recalled.
The police found the kids in the backseat of the car after a construction crew who was working on a house under construction called 911. The Jeep Wrangler their father drove was spotted. It later turned out that Richard had shot and murdered the two- and three-year-old toddlers. Richie died instantly. Destiny’s life could not be saved at hospitals.
A clerical error dating back to 1999 allowed Lisa’s ex-husband to purchase a weapon. Richard consented to a protective order, so it was removed from the Maryland State Police database, allowing Richard to get a handgun permit. Lisa learned that there was a huge issue with protective orders in the state of Maryland.
“At that point, and at that time, there was an 86.7% error rate which is horrifying to think that only less than 14% of protective orders in the state were good. All the rest of them had errors, so I made that choice that I was going to do everything in my power to prevent this from happening to another family,” Lisa said.
About a month after she buried the children, Lisa sat before the Maryland General Assembly trying to figure out how an incident like hers could be prevented from happening again. Lisa explained that the Domestic Violence Unit Pilot Program was the biggest legislation that arose. Law enforcement agencies were given funding to clean up their domestic violence database, ensure proper service and training, and to make sure peace and protective orders are getting entered correctly into the system.
Lisa now works as Donate Life Maryland’s executive director. The state-authorized nonprofit organization strives to save and enhance lives through registering organ, eye, and tissue donors.
“Helping people is truly one of the best ways that I can keep Destiny and Richie’s memory alive,” noting her 20 plus years of advocacy work.
Lisa wants people to remember takeaways about domestic violence.
“Domestic violence can happen in any household,” Lisa said. “It happens to women, men. To everyone out there it can happen to, and really, it doesn’t have to be the end. If you’re in that situation, there are places that can help. You have to find that right person and have that conversation.”
Domestic violence is an issue that remains problematic. The pandemic caused it to be a “considerable issue” worldwide because “home confinement led to constant contact between perpetrators and victims, resulting in increased violence and decreased reports,” according to the National Library of Medicine’s report. It was also reported that 32 studies were used up through July 22, 2020, to draw these conclusions.
Domestic violence and protective order information is available through the Maryland court’ website via https://mdcourts.gov/legalhelp/domesticviolence