AURELIUS — When the Socci and Bell families were asked to speak to law enforcement about domestic violence, both wanted to leave officers with the same message: Show compassion.
On Friday morning, the Soccis and Bells shared similar stories with members of the Auburn Police Department, Cayuga County Sheriff's Office and New York State Police. It was part of a special training program to teach law enforcement new techniques to investigate and prosecute domestic violence cases in the county.
First, John and Tina Socci spoke about their daughter, Katie, who was killed in Auburn on June 14, 2011. The couple recalled the months and days leading up to Katie's death, describing how her ex-boyfriend, David McNamara, had begun stalking the mother of his child and going through her trash.
Tina Socci stood beside her daughter's picture — a picture that was taken two days before police found her body in a shallow grave. That same day, Tina said Katie had gone to McNamara's probation officer and complained about his stalking.
"The probation officer said, 'Let's just see what he does,'" Tina said, crying. "Two days later, she was dead."
Then, five months after Katie's death, Kelly Bell said she received her own devastating news — Bell's daughter, Bridget, had died. She was stabbed to death in Auburn by her ex-boyfriend, Ryan Brahney, on Nov. 21, 2011.
Kelly Bell held a picture of her grandson, Finn, as she addressed the officers Friday morning.
"This is the real victim here," she said.
But both the Soccis and Bells said compassion helped them through their loss, and they asked officers to keep that in mind as they investigate domestic violence cases in Cayuga County.
"I can't tell you how important even a little bit of compassion is to victims of domestic violence," John Socci said. "We knew (the officers) weren't just doing their job. We knew they cared for us."
"Your chief (Shawn Butler) took the compassion to become our friend," Bell added. "It only takes five minutes of your time ... five minutes and compassion."
According to Det. Lt. Brian Schenck of the Cayuga County Sheriff's Office, reports of domestic violence have risen in the county. Last year, he said local law enforcement investigated over 2,200 cases — roughly 300 more cases than 2014.
That's why Patty Weaver, the domestic violence services coordinator at the Cayuga/Seneca Community Action Agency, said Friday's training was crucial to the community, as the program hopes to prevent and prosecute more cases.
"Domestic violence has always been an issue ... but now that we are raising more awareness around it, I think more people are reaching out for help and assistance," she said. "This training will allow us to help more people."
Mark Wynn was in charge of the training program Friday. A retired lieutenant from the Nashville Police Department, Wynn said he has worked in domestic violence issues for 40 years; he now spends his time teaching other departments new techniques.
One of the main issues Wynn wanted to tackle Friday was how to prosecute a case without victim cooperation.
"What often happens in cases is the victim pays a heavy price for cooperating with anybody because they have a very controlling and abusive partner," he said. "So I want to talk to these officers about what it looks like when a victim minimizes what's happening and how to use that when you prosecute your case. ... You can go forward and prosecute a case without a victim."
Weaver said around 130 officers and victim advocates attended the training, which is partially funded by a two-year $200,000 state grant. The program was held both Thursday and Friday to allow more officers to participate.
Auburn Police Chief Shawn Butler said he made the training mandatory for nearly all of his sworn officers. So far, he said he received positive feedback.
"This is really going to take us to the next level," he said. "(Domestic violence) is something we deal with every day and if we can take a different perspective on how we investigate these calls or give a little bit more support to victims ... hopefully we can prevent the tragedy that (the Soccis and Bells) live with every day of their lives."
"Had we sat through this (training) six years ago, things might have been different," John Socci said. "To us, this is priceless ... because I know it will make one hell of a difference for other families down the road."