PADUCAH — In court Tuesday, James Vanvactor pleaded not guilty to charges including murder, failure to render aid, and domestic violence. He is accused of running over his girlfriend, Angella Hale, with an RV early Sunday morning, killing her in the Paducah Convention Center parking lot.
Before that violent incident, Paducah police said they responded to a call from Vanvactor before midnight Saturday to the convention center parking lot. Vanvactor said he wanted Hale to leave his RV. When police came, Hale was asleep, and officers said they did not see any signs of domestic violence.
Police explained to Vanvactor the laws about removing someone from property and considered the situation to be a civil disagreement.
Assistant Police Chief Justin Crowell said the signs of domestic violence would be physical signs of abuse like bruises, scratches or a messy appearance. Other signs would include threats or any report of abuse from the victim. If police had seen those signs, they said they would have used a protocol called lethality assessment screening to get the victim out of the situation.
When the Paducah Police Department responds to a domestic violence situation, they use an 11-question lethality screening assessment. If the victim answers yes to the top three questions, they're automatically referred to the Merryman House.
Crowell said the assessment gives victims the extra help they need to leave abusive situations.
"Whenever you go through an assessment and you go through those risk factors, and you tell the person 'Hey, you're at a high risk for domestic violence. I've got someone who can help you out,' that gives them the opportunity," Crowell said. " It gives them an out."
In that incident, police said this assessment would not have been used, but the questions give first responders the tools to get victims out of dangerous situations.
"I feel for the victim's family in this," Crowell said. "So we want to send our condolences to them."
The lethality assessment protocol started in Maryland and has been adopted in other states. In our area, Marshall County and Murray also use it. Vanvactor's preliminary hearing is schedule to begin at 1 p.m. on Oct. 15.