Leroy Headley's partner told police of death threats months before she was killed
Court records obtained by VTDigger show that Anako Lumumba, 33, a nurse and the mother of two of Headley's children, filed complaints in April and December last year telling police that Headley had guns and was threatening to kill her.
"I am afraid that he physically threatens me because he is in possession of a loaded gun and what he says at times is very disturbing and unsettling," she wrote in a request for a relief-from-abuse order on Dec. 2, 2017.
"I don't feel safe in a space I know has two loaded guns ready for use," Lumumba said in a separate request on April 16, 2017.
On Dec. 2, Lumumba filed a request with the court asking Headley to temporarily leave their household, surrender his guns and give up custody of their children. The court issued a temporary relief-from-abuse order, but Headley refused to surrender his firearms during the five-day stretch when it was in force.
On Dec. 7, Judge Dennis Pearson vacated the order and dismissed further action because Lumumba failed to appear for a scheduled hearing, according to records from the Chittenden County Superior Court family division. Police stopped efforts to obtain Headley's guns that day.
There is no record of South Burlington police responding to further incidents involving Headley until May 3, when they were called to 10 Southview Drive, the couple's shared residence.
This time, Lumumba was found shot dead in her home.
A man called police from Headley's phone soon afterward and admitting to killing his girlfriend. An officer said he recognized Headley's voice. Police have since placed Headley at the scene of the crime and obtained a warrant for his arrest.
Headley, 36, remains on the run. South Burlington Police Chief Trevor Whipple said on Friday that there were no updates on the search. He could not be reached Monday and did not return calls requesting comment.
When Lumumba contacted police in December, she told them about receiving text messages from Headley explicitly threatening her life.
"He also threatens to `blow my head off,'" she wrote in the complaint requesting intervention from law enforcement.
A screenshot from a smartphone attached to the December complaint shows one of the threatening messages allegedly from Headley.
"The next time you're going to see a real fucking fight if you can lived (sic) to tell the story," Headley allegedly wrote.
Lumumba told police that Headley was stalking her, obsessively calling her phone and preventing her from meeting other people. She said it was hard for her to get away from Headley, who was becoming obsessive about her whereabouts, according to court records.
In the April complaint, Lumumba says the couple had a history of heated fighting, but that Headley had become increasingly unstable as he became ensnared in legal troubles.
Headley was charged in March 2017 with sexual assault against two 13-year-old girls whom he allegedly brought to a hotel room, plied with liquor, and told to perform oral sex on him, which they did. According to an affidavit in the case, there is a video of the crime.
The trial in that case, which could have landed Headley in prison for 20 years, was set to begin this week. His conditions of release in that case barred him from being alone with children, apart from his own, or contacting the alleged victims.
Lumumba's first complaint was filed a month after Headley was charged with the child sex assaults. She said her fiance had two guns "and this makes me nervous being in the household, with his increased stress, I'm scared that he could go off edge and use them."
"He has the idea that also if something happened to him he would want me gone as well so that no one else could have me," she says.
Lumumba said he had threatened to kill or hurt her at least 10 times.
"I'm scared for my safety and the safety of my kids," she told police.
The relief-from-abuse order issued in April was also vacated after Lumumba failed to appear in court. According to the redacted transcript of an interview conducted by officer Brianne Williamson, Lumumba "did not know she had to go to court again."
Both of the orders stated that Headley had abused Lumumba and posed an immediate risk of doing so again. Police were to hold his weapons as long as the order was in effect.
But Headley refused to sign or abide by the order when served, according to the records, and police never got him to surrender his firearms.
Officer Dan Boyer reported an attempt to enforce the order on Dec. 3.
"I also asked if he owned a handgun," Boyer wrote. "Headley implied he did own a handgun. I informed him he had to surrender the handgun per the court order. Headley stated he wouldn't and stated he sold the handgun."
Three days later, on Dec. 6, police said Headley had agreed to surrender his firearms through his lawyer. The next day, attempts to secure the firearms appeared to cease.
A hearing on the temporary restraining order was set for Dec. 7 at the family division of the Chittenden County Superior Court.
Richard Goldsborough, Headley's lawyer, said in an interview last week that the "girlfriend" did not show up, so a permanent order was not issued. He declined to provide information about the case that was not already public or contained in the documents obtained by VTDigger.
Cara Cookson, an attorney who heads the victim assistance program at the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services, said Goldsborough, who was representing Headley in the sexual assault case, would have wanted to make sure his client could avoid those hearings.
While Cookson was not familiar with details of the case, she said that lawyers in such cases typically seek to avoid the hearings because crimes or abusive behavior might come to light that could hurt their ability to argue for leniency or negotiate a plea deal in the criminal case.
"Rick would have been very invested in making sure that those final orders didn't issue because of the consequences on the criminal case," Cookson said.
Goldsborough did not return a call seeking specific comment about his role in the family court hearings.
Justin Jiron, a deputy Chittenden County state's attorney, said his office only became aware of the relief-from-abuse orders after Lumumba's killing, and was not familiar with the details of how the orders were handled in the family court.
Generally, Jiron said, the only way the court would reschedule such a hearing is at the request of the plaintiff. As for other law enforcement action, he said officials only have the authority to investigate domestic violence cases if there is evidence of a crime or a willing witness.
"I don't know what commitment Ms. Lumumba had in the investigation, if any," Jiron said. "It's not uncommon for someone to seek the order and abandon it, or seek more than one order. It can take many attempts before a person can successfully leave their domestic abuse partners."
Jiron said he didn't know what more the law enforcement system could have done in a case like Lumumba's, without violating the suspected abuser's constitutional freedoms.
"Are we expected to follow them around, or surveil them?" he said. "If there's no evidence to arrest someone, you can't arrest, and if someone doesn't pursue a restraining order, we can't force them to."
Kelsey Neubauer contributed reporting.
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