June 10, 2011 — -- Josh Hilberling, a 6-foot, 5-inch, 220-pound former football player, died after he plunged 17 stories from his Oklahoma apartment building, an alleged victim of spousal abuse.
Tulsa police say Hilberling, 23, was pushed out of his 25th floor apartment window at the University Club Tower on Tuesday by his wife, Amber Michelle Hilberling, 19, who is being charged with first-degree murder.
"We taught him to never hit a woman, but what we didn't think to teach him was to get away," his mother, Jeanne Hilberling, told ABC's affiliate KTUL. "We just will never forget him. He's one of a kind."
"Anybody that knows Josh is going to miss that smile, but no one more than his proud military parents who wanted the world for son," she said.
The couple had been married only a year, according to his parents, but just last month their son went to Domestic Violence Intervention Services looking for help. It had been hard, they said, for him to admit he was a victim.
They said Josh, who was in the Air Force, didn't leave because Amber was eight months pregnant with their first child.
"Most of the time you have a homicide similar to this and typically the woman is the victim," said Officer Jason Willingham, spokesman for the Tulsa Police. "I don't recall any situation that is similar in recent history, for sure."
But Amber Hilberling's lawyer said that she is the victim of domestic violence.
"This is a tragedy for everyone involved and what it wasn't -- was a crime," Jason Corns told local television station KRMZ.
Police received a call Tuesday afternoon from witnesses who reported a suicide at the apartment tower, according to Willingham. Hilberling had fallen from the 25th floor to an eighth- floor parking garage.
When paramedics arrived, police questioned witnesses and those who knew the couple, determining that Josh had been "pushed out the window, breaking the window and causing his death," said Willingham. "It was a heck of a fall."
At first Amber Hilberling was arrested on second-degree murder, but later police changed it to first-degree when they looked at the evidence. "It tipped the scale," he said.
So far, no charges have been filed, according to Susan Witt of the Tulsa District Attorney's office.
"Tulsa police are still investigating," said Witt. "When their investigation is complete, reports will be forwarded to the district attorney's office for review and a decision about charges."
Willingham said the couple had a history of domestic violence and there had been protective orders "on both sides."
Tulsa police said that investigators found a protective order that that Josh Hilberling requested in May because he said he wife hit him on the head with a lamp and he needed 21 stitches.
The order was dismissed when the couple did not show up in court.
"I can say we have seen absolutely no criminal evidence of wrong doing by Mrs. Hilberling," said Amber Hilberling's lawyer Corns, who said Josh was the aggressor.
An estimated 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a 2000 National Violence Against Women Survey.
About 37 percent of all domestic abuse victims are men, according to Denver clinical psychologist Jeanne King, who is author of "Abused Men." She co-founded the education advocacy group, Partners in Prevention.
Battered Men Don't Report Crimes
"They are silenced because men don't speak about it," she said. "It's two-fold. One is the shame – it's greater for men than women. There are also less resources available to men…Try to think about where a center is for abused men and you scratch your head."
Researchers began looking at husband battering cases in the 1970s. One study a Boston University described scenarios where women struck out at their husbands for just talking loudly.
Others said that after being in the house with children who would "get on my nerves" all day long, they got mad and hit their spouses. One woman said she became violent just because her husband was "such a bore."
"I was trying to wake him up, you know," she was quoted as saying in the study. " He was such a rotten lover anyway. So I'd yell at him and bit him to stir him up."
Other studies have shown that women are more apt to throw things or kick their husbands. Violence is also associated with sexism, lack of self-control and mental illness.
As for Amber Hilberling, she was released from jail Thursday on a $250,000 bond and will appear back in Tulsa County Court on June 15.
She is required to wear an ankle monitor and surrender any passport she owns while the murder investigation continues.
As the Hilberling family plans a private funeral service, they are broken-hearted over their son's violent death.
"I want people to remember who Josh was, not how he died," said his mother. "I want them to remember the kind compassionate friend who would do anything for anybody."
Josh Hilberling's father told ABC that the day his son died, he had been trying to leave the relationship for good.
"That's the only thing people need to know is that when you're trying to leave, it's the most dangerous time," said Jeanne Hilberling.
"You bet," said psychologist King. "Abuse is fundamentally about control and violence will escalate when a person feels they have lost control. There is no greater sense of loss than to see the victim walk out the door."
To find help for male spousal abuse, go to Partners in Prevention.