GoFundMe set up to help children of Sun Prairie woman killed in domestic abuse incident

Jessica Ewers

More than $5,000 has been raised to help the five children of Town of Sun Prairie resident Jessica Ewers killed by her ex-boyfriend.

The 44-year-old Ewers was reportedly shot and killed by 45-year-old James T. Budworth on Dec. 28 in her Pierceville Road home.

Budworth died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to a forensic examination by the Dane County Medical Examiner office.

The GoFundMe fundraiser, to help Ewers’ three daughters and two sons, was set up this week and has received $5,664 of donations toward an $11,000 goal. To view the GoFundMe, visit: https://gf.me/v/c/y2qn/kids-left-without-their-mother

Ewers has faced domestic violence by her ex-boyfriend in October and was injured, according to the GoFundMe page.

Budworth was charged in Dane County Circuit Court on Oct. 23, 2020 with felony strangulation and suffocation and domestic abuse misdemeanors. Budworth was scheduled for a Feb. 15 pre-conference hearing on the charges and as part of the signature bond was not to have contact with the victim or possess a gun.

Domestic violence is expected to increase under the COVID-19 emergency as people stay at home more, lose jobs and deal with mounting stress from the pandemic.

Domestic violence services are reaching out to people experiencing abuse letting them know help is available.

Even before Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued a “safer-at-home” order last spring, DAIS (Domestic Abuse Intervention Services) saw an increase in calls to its 24-hour Help Line 1-800-747-4045.

“Knowing that we are in a pandemic, that we are at the beginning of a recession, and people are sheltered at home—that is a huge recipe for some very bad things to happen,” said DAIS Executive Director Shannon Barry.

DAIS offers a 24-hour helpline, emergency shelter, crisis response, children’s programs, support groups and legal assistance for domestic abuse victims.

Loss of income for a person who is being abused also creates problems and having kids at home can add an extra level of stress during a domestic violence situation, Barry said. Situations are similar now under the COVID-19 with children at home more.

“It can be very stressful for a parent being abused to navigate kids’ needs and safety needs at the same time,” Barry said.

DAIS offers emergency shelter with cases rated on the severity of abuse. Barry said the majority of DAIS emergency shelter residents are children.

The Dane County Circuit Court records accepts restraining orders in person and by mail but court officials say that e-filing is the most expedited service, www.wicourts.gov/ecourts. DAIS legal staff can assist with the process, including technology help.

People facing domestic violence are also asked to find support and reach out to others, including family, friends, and even neighbors.

DAIS has resources for family and loved ones of people who are being abused, with suggestions on how they can help.

Domestic abuse numbers are expected to go up based on previous historical increases, Barry said. During the 2008-2009 recession, domestic abuse-related deaths increased by 43 percent, according to a report from the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Barry said another concern is that gun sales have gone up to record highs in March compared with data from last year, according to the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

“We know that when there are firearms in the home, the lethality of domestic violence increases,” Barry said.

Domestic abuse is not limited to physical abuse, Barry said. It can include emotional, verbal and economic abuse, all marked by a pattern of power and control. The COVID-19 pandemic may amplify these power dynamics.

“Domestic abusers will escalate their tactics when they start feeling a loss of control and we are in an environment right now where no one has control,” Barry said.

Law enforcement is focused on reaching out to people experiencing domestic abuse.

“We encourage people to call if they are in a domestic abuse situation. We don’t want people to hesitate to call 911,” said Dane County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Office Elise Schaffer.

The Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne emphasized that crime victims have resources available, including a Crime Response Program 24-hour line (608) 376-0164.

Where to get help

If you are experiencing an domestic abuse emergency call 911. Other available resources include:

• Domestic Abuse Intervention Services, Inc. DAIS Helpline (608) 251-4445 or 800-747-4045

• National Domestic Abuse Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233.

Editor’s note: Information in the this article was previously published in the Sun Prairie Star.

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