Tragic Tale of Teen Dating Violence

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"20/20" reported a disturbing story on teen-dating violence, April 5, 2005. The story was so powerful we wanted to air it again with updates. Here you'll see the positive reaction of one mother to a devastating event.

Marcus McTear was a star running back at Reagan High School in Austin, Texas. At 16, he was bright and popular and dreamed of college until a spring day in March 2003. The popular athlete stabbed his girlfriend, Ortralla Mosley, to death in a school hallway after she tried to break up with him.

What had gone wrong? How did a boy with such pent-up rage escape the attention of parents and adults? As it turns out, Marcus had a history of teen dating violence a few years before, when he was dating an eighth-grade classmate named Rae Anne Spence.

Rae Anne said everything about Marcus appealed to her. "He was very, very sweet to me. We talked to like 3 o'clock in the morning every school night," she said.

At first, Rae Anne seemed happy. She was a cheerleader and her athletic boyfriend poured on the affection with flowers, love notes and constant adoration. Then the sweet relationship took a turn. She said Marcus began telling her what to do, what to wear and demanding that she not attract other boys' attention.

"I couldn't show a lot of skin. And with the makeup, if I would wear it, like, even a little bit, he would get mad," Rae Anne said.

Marcus was Rae Anne's first boyfriend, and she said she didn't know if this was unusual behavior.

But Rae Anne's mother, Elaine, soon noticed her bubbly daughter was becoming withdrawn and less confident. "I watched her go from being this vibrant beautiful girl to a person who never wanted to put on makeup, who worried about everything that she wore to not being able to be herself," she said.

The controlling behavior Rae Anne was experiencing is a sign that emotional abuse may escalate, experts warn.

"A girl always has to be aware that if he can annihilate you emotionally and verbally, slice and dice you, you can't be sure that he's never going to lay a hand on you," said Jill Murray, a psychologist and author of "But I Love Him: Protecting Your Teen Daughter from Controlling, Abusive Dating Relationships."

Murray says the pattern of abuse in teen dating violence is the same as that in adult domestic violence. For Rae Anne and Marcus, one minute there were tender kisses; the next, angry threats. Rae Anne says the first hint it was escalating to physical abuse came one day at school.

"I was standing with like a group of girls. And, like, he came up to me, and, like, I wanted him to stay with me and not go with his brother, and I just remember him turning around and punching me in my arm," Rae Anne said. "I just stood there, like, and I tried to pretend it didn't happen."

But Rae Anne kept her fears secret from almost everybody. One of the scariest moments, she says, happened during an argument between classes when she grabbed Marcus' backpack.

"When I got to the top of the stairs, he got behind me, and like grabbed me by my arm and like twirled me around, and told me to never touch him like that again. And he pushed me down the stairs," she said.

Rae Anne told her mom about the incident. At this point, Elaine said she tried to persuade her daughter to end her relationship with Marcus. "I tried to pound it in her head that this boy was no good for her. I mean, if he was going to push her down stairs, what else was he doing that I didn't know about?" she said.

There was a lot she didn't know. One time, Rae Anne says Marcus bit her cheek. On another occasion, she says, he set her backpack on fire. Rae Anne says other students saw the violence but blamed her for the trouble, not the star athlete.

Despite feeling isolated and alone, Rae Anne somehow found a moment of confidence and broke up with Marcus.

Potential for Abuse Doesn't End With Breakup

Murray says ending a relationship doesn't mean the danger of abuse is gone. "The most vulnerable time for a girl in a domestic violence situation is when she leaves, because they've taken their power and control back. And an abuser who doesn't have power and control is very frightened," she said.

Just days after they split up, Rae Anne says Marcus wrote a heartfelt letter to her, begging for another chance.

"He just apologized and said he'd never do it again," Rae Anne said. She gave him another chance, she said, hoping the relationship would get better.

But as in most cases of teen dating violence, it didn't get better. Marcus even said he'd commit suicide if she left him, Rae Anne said.

The breaking point came one day in drama class. Rae Anne says Marcus violently smacked her with a notebook "as hard as he could."

"My ear was ringing and then he didn't stop. ... So I got up and I slapped him back," she said. "And that was like the worst mistake I could have done, because he put me in a head lock and he continued to punch me until the teacher stopped him."

By now, Rae Anne's mother was beyond exasperation. After the incident, the school suspended both Marcus and Rae Anne. But in response to the escalating violence, Rae Anne's mother says she felt that the school essentially did nothing to help her daughter. So she took a drastic but, she felt, necessary step: She moved her family across town to a new school district. She says felt it was the only way to get her daughter away from Marcus.

Despite the physical abuse, Rae Anne says she wasn't able to end her relationship with Marcus. "Because I loved him. … I just felt like he needed me," she said.

Rae Anne said she was concerned for Marcus, and worried "that he'd hurt himself or somebody else."

Boyfriend Moves On, With Tragic Consequences

By the fall of 2002, Rae Anne had escaped her rocky relationship with Marcus. The popular football star was now a sophomore, and it didn't take long for him to move on to a new girl at school. This time he found someone just as popular as himself, an outgoing 15-year-old sophomore -- a beautiful, bright dancer named Ortralla Mosley.

Her mother, Carolyn Mosley, remembers the first time she met Marcus. He made a good impression. "He was a very good young man. He had his life organized to where he thought he was on the right road. I really thought they would make a very, very, very good couple," she said.

But just as he had with Rae Anne, Marcus soon began to control Ortralla's life and by the spring of 2003, Ortralla's mother said her daughter had had enough and was trying to break up with him.

On the morning of March 28, 2003, she says Ortralla went to school expecting trouble. Marcus was an emotional wreck, begging Ortralla not to leave him, Mosley says.

Ortralla's English teacher, Vanessa Connor, recalls that Ortralla seemed particularly distressed about Marcus. "I looked at her and she looked like she wasn't all with me that day, you know. And I said, 'Baby, you, you all right?' And she said, 'Oh, you know how it is, Miss Connor, roller coaster of love. You know how teenagers are.' And I smiled and said, 'All right,'" Connor said.

But things weren't all right. At 4 o'clock that afternoon, Marcus snapped. After a violent confrontation, he chased Ortralla to a second-floor hallway, pulled out an 8-inch kitchen knife he'd hidden in his backpack and began stabbing her repeatedly: six times in the head, the neck and the back. Students and teachers heard screaming and came running.

Amid the chaos, Connor knelt down on the bloody floor to provide comfort to the dying girl. "I was saying, you know, 'You got to hang in there. You got to stay with me. Don't go.' And it was the hardest thing I've ever been through," Connor said. Moments later, Ortralla was dead.

Marcus was arrested and charged with murder. He pleaded guilty and is now serving a 40-year sentence.

Understanding the Cycle of Abuse

Marcus declined requests for an interview, but "20/20" was able to speak with another young man who says he understands how teen dating relationships can become physically abusive.

Chris Cummings, 22, does not know Marcus, but says he understands how the cycle of abuse can poison a relationship. Cummings said he had a deep-seated insecurity as a teenager during a three-year relationship.

Cummings said he didn't hit girlfriend "with a fist," but he'd push her around. "I threw her to the ground once or twice," he said.

When his girlfriend cried, he said, the violence would escalate. "It just made it worse, you know, 'cause then I'd hit harder," he said.

Cummings says violence somehow made him feel powerful and in control. He even took out his frustrations on his bedroom walls.

Murray says that's a classic sign that a teenage boy may become abusive.

"A boy who puts his fist through a wall or through a window is a dangerous person, because the brain doesn't know the difference between a wall and a face. All it knows is that when I punch through something, I feel better. And then the next step is he punches them," she said.

Cummings says he is grateful that his relationship never descended as far as Marcus and Ortralla's did. He realized he needed help and got counseling with the support of his family. Unfortunately, in the case of Marcus McTear, his uncontrollable violence left Ortralla dead and Rae Anne emotionally scarred.

"I have nightmares of the murder. I feel like I was there, even though I wasn't," Rae Anne said.

Rae Anne said she still struggles with self-esteem and confidence issues. "Marcus still has a lot of it. I just hate that he has half of me with him. The me that I want back," she said.

Now 19, and wiser, Rae Anne is refusing to run away from her past. She's speaking out, hoping to spare other young girls from the nightmare that she escaped and Ortralla Mosley did not.

She said she keeps a picture of Ortralla above her bed. "I feel like now I'm not just living for me, I'm living for her," Rae Anne said.

"There's a reason for everything. And there's a reason why I'm still here. And I think I'm going to keep 'Tralla alive. I'm going to keep her spirit alive the best I can. And I'm going to talk about this as much as I can. And make sure it doesn't happen again."

Ortralla's mother, Carolyn Mosley, has become a Texas correctional officer so she can learn how to deal with young offenders. In honor of her daughter, she has incorporated the Ortralla Lu Wone Mosley Foundation -- a Texas organization that will provide a safe haven for adolescents dealing with dating violence.

For more information about the foundation, write to: The Ortralla Lu Wone Mosley Foundation

P.O. Box 200

Lancaster, Texas 75146

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