Did police ignore teen's plea for help?

February 21, 2008 9:52:03 AM PST
Natasha Hall was a beautiful high school student who dreamed of joining the Air Force and one day having a career in journalism. Those dreams ended when she was shot and killed by her abusive ex-boyfriend ? and now her family and friends have charged that police didn't do enough to protect her. On Feb. 15, Natasha and her best friend, Michelle Karpowicz, went to Natasha's house to grab a change of clothes before they went out. Clay Kufner, Natasha's 19-year-old ex-boyfriend, was hiding in bushes nearby and emerged with a gun when he saw the girls coming.

"He looked so sick and dark, like he was on drugs," Michelle said.

Michelle says she screamed to warn Natasha, but Kufner pulled the trigger, shooting Natasha, 17, in the head.

"Then he pointed the gun at me and then shot Natasha again, a second time," Michelle said.

This time Kufner hit her in the chest, and Michelle ran to get help. Kufner pulled the trigger a third time, killing himself.

Natasha's mother, Cheri Hall, came home from dinner to find her house wrapped in police tape. "My heart sank," she said.

Signs of Violence

When Natasha began dating Kufner, Hall would never have imagined the couple's relationship would end in violence.

"He told me he's a straight-A student, from a middle-class family, and it sounded like the perfect relationship," Hall said.

But soon Kufner started getting jealous and began telling Natasha what to do.

Hall said Kufner would tell Natasha she couldn't wear certain outfits to school because they were too provocative and other guys might look at her. The couple began to fight more and more.

Police records show that Natasha and her mother called Florida's DeLand Police Department several times to report problems with Kufner. They called once when Kufner pushed an ice cream cone in Natasha's face so hard she was bruised. Another time he dragged her out of a store because she refused to go home with him.

Once when Natasha tried to kick him out of her house, he hit her. In a statement to police, Natasha wrote that Kufner "became angry enough to ? punch me in my lip. I started screaming and crying as blood was gushing down my lip."

Hall says that despite those calls, the police never arrested Kufner or charged him with a crime.

In a statement provided to ABC News, DeLand police said they offered to visit the state attorney's office because they felt they might be able to pursue a stalking charge. But the police say "both Mrs. Hall and Natasha decided not to pursue the charge."

Cheri Hall says she urged her daughter to press charges, but Natasha refused because she felt badly for Kupfer. So the mother tried to file charges against Kufner herself.

"I said to the police officer, 'She is a minor. I still want to pursue the charges, I'm her mother,'" Hall said. "The police officer said, 'You can't do that, if she doesn't want to press charges you can't do that.'"

Hall says that her daughter was "going through a living hell." Just two days before the murder-suicide, Natasha told her mother that Kufner was watching her from outside the house.

"She got out of bed, went running downstairs and said, 'Mom, he's staring at me out the window while I try to sleep. It's so creepy.'"

Experts say that parents should look for signs of trouble in their teens' relationships and take action if they discover any abusive behavior.

Kristine Herman, who works with the Center for Court Innovation, said vigilance can prevent these kinds of tragedies.

"Adults tend to underestimate how lethal [teen dating violence] can actually be," she said.