Sister of domestic homicide victim steps up to raise awareness

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Shelly Birkelo
Thursday, August 29, 2013

JANESVILLE—Sharon Baker Bucklin was supposed to leave her North Carolina home for graduate school in Mississippi on May 26, 1995.

Instead, she learned her sister had been murdered in Janesville, so she boarded a plane for Wisconsin.

"It was very traumatic," Baker Bucklin said.

Susan Anderson, 34, was killed in her Janesville home--beaten and stomped to death by her husband, Gregory Anderson.

Baker Bucklin, Milton, will be the keynote speaker at the Friday, Sept. 27, YWCA Rock County Walk a Mile in Her Shoes fundraiser.

Proceeds from the annual march will benefit the YWCA's Alternatives to Violence program and its Transitions for Women program.

The Alternatives to Violence program in 2012 housed 139 women and 143 children in its 33-bed domestic violence shelter. Staff and volunteers fielded 339 calls on the 24-hour crisis HELP line, said Beth Tallon, public relations director.

Single mothers with a history of domestic violence find sustainable employment and affordable housing for their families through the YWCA's Transition for Women program that served 60 households in 2012, she said.

Baker Bucklin said the walk is important because it gets males involved in what statistically is an issue of men abusing women and because it educates and creates awareness about domestic violence.

"It crosses all lines, all ages and all relationships. So, you need to know what (service) is out there, and if not for yourself for someone else," she said.

Baker Bucklin said her speech would represent the viewpoint of a domestic violence victim's family, what it's like to experience it and survive it.

"I'm trying to educate people that (domestic violence) is not necessarily the stereotypical abuse you think of. Anybody can be a victim of abuse and it can be a one-time deal. You need to be aware there is a pattern, sometimes, but not necessarily a daily thing."

That was the case with her sister, she said.

During the murder investigation, the Bakers learned of three domestic events between Susan and her husband, who were in marriage counseling at the time of Susan's death, Baker Bucklin said.

"I don't think she was abused weekly or monthly but certainly there had been a few events in the 13 years they were married. Cops had limited contact with them," she said.

A month before she was killed, Susan talked to her parents, Jim and June Baker, once, about a physical argument she'd had with her husband. That was the only time she had mentioned any domestic issues to them.

"I don't think my sister considered herself an abuse victim, and she should have," Baker Bucklin said.

"Women don't have to stay in a shelter or leave their husbands, but they need to be aware of the different kinds of abuse and what their options are," she said.

The impact of Susan's death continues to take a toll on the Baker family. While dealing with the daughter's death, Susan's parents were thrust into a yearlong custody battle for their grandchildren--then ages 6 and 7--with Gregory Anderson's family.

Baker Bucklin and her mother attended Anderson's parole hearings in 2010 and again earlier this year and will continue to do so every three years, she said.

"I owe it to my sister who is not here to speak for herself. I will do whatever it takes to make sure he pays for this crime," Baker Bucklin said.

Susan's father doesn't like to come back to Janesville and has never attended any of the parole hearings.

"It's just too painful for him," Baker Bucklin said.

Last year she sponsored a Walk a Mile team called The Blisters. This year, she would like to organize a team of colleagues from UW-Rock County, where she teaches Spanish. She and her daughters will walk in this year's march.

The loss of Susan at such a young age and in such a tragic way still hurts.

“It's been difficult," she said. "There's always a hole at every family function."

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