Life after Tina: One family's quest to force domestic abuser to publicly register

Her loved ones ask: "How many more Tinas do we have to lose?"

November 1, 2018, 4:09 AM

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The day after daughter, Tina’s funeral, Lora Stewart sat in her home in Newman Lake, Washington and pulled out her cell phone to watch an archived video of her daughter dancing in the middle of the street.

"Look at this Addy!" Stewart said laughing at the video as she handed her 8-year-old granddaughter the phone.

Stewart was in the kitchen preparing dinner, silently watching her granddaughter replay the video of her mother dancing over and over again.

Addy couldn’t help but smile at the video of her mother.

"Nana, I don’t know why God would put so much pain on our tiny, little hearts," Addy said to Stewart as she buried her head in her chest with tears in her eyes.

Last Thanksgiving, Tina Stewart, a daycare teacher and mother of two was fatally beaten by her ex-boyfriend after the two got into a domestic dispute.

Stewart remembers her daughter Tina as a vivacious ball of energy who touched the lives of many.

"She was my best friend. She always turned my day around," Stewart told ABC News. "She was super daughter, she was super Tina."

In memory of her daughter, Stewart and the rest of her family are now lobbying for Congress to pass Tina’s Law, a bill that will require domestic abusers to register online through a new website as violent offenders. The Stewart’s are now vowing to bring awareness to an issue they think is often overlooked but important on Tina’s behalf — domestic violence.

Tina’s Story

Stewart said she remembers the day she received the news of her daughter’s death as if it were yesterday.

The day before Thanksgiving last year, the Stewart’s celebrated the holiday with dinner at Tina’s house. Stewart remembers it as the "the best Thanksgiving" they had so far as a family, but they didn’t know that was the last time they would ever see Tina again.

"Charlie what is it?" Stewart remembers sleepily murmuring in confusion after being woken up by her son Charlie from banging on her bedroom window.

Charlie couldn’t look his mother in the eye and stood speechless.

Stewart went through a list of names pleading with her son to tell her the news he had.

"Is it Tina?" Stewart finally asked — Charlie shook his head yes.

"My knees buckled and I went down to the floor," Tina told ABC News. "It was the most painful thing he [Charlie] had to do."

Tina spent Thanksgiving with her boyfriend, Nicholas Holden’s family. The two were at her Holden’s father’s home when the couple got into a drunken dispute.

Holden confessed to authorities to punching Tina multiple times in the face and kicking her while she was on the ground.

According to ABC's Washington affiliate, KXLY, court documents indicated Holden and Stewart got into an altercation on Thanksgiving, which later turned violent. After the physical argument, court documents say later in the night she "died from wounds after being beaten."

Charlie remembers feeling numb and shock when he heard the dreadful news of his sister's death from her children's father, Andrew Estes.

"I’ve never lost anybody that close," Charlie said. "She was the closest family member I had."

Charlie told ABC News Holden issued an apology via Facebook after he allegedly headbutted Tina at a bar.

"I didn’t get along with him," Charlie said admitting he should have "noticed" the relationship Holden had with his sister.

Charlie affirmed the death of his sister has taken a great toll on Tina’s children and even his own.

"They can’t do anything without her, she was so good with kids," Charlie said. "Shane (Tina’s son) is depressed, you can see it. He doesn’t want to do anything."

Tina’s two children are currently in counseling to help cope with their mother’s death.

PHOTO: Tina Stewart's children, Addy, 8, and Shane, 12, remember their mother who was murdered in a domestic violence incident. Share wears a t-shirt with his mother's picture on it.
Tina Stewart's children, Addy, 8, and Shane, 12, remember their mother who was murdered in a domestic violence incident. Share wears a t-shirt with his mother's picture on it.
Courtesy Donald Estes

Life after Tina

Seeking justice, Stewart and her family pursued Tina’s perpetrator in court. Emotions and tensions ran high during the court hearings as Charlie recalls.

"We were all in a bad state of mind," Charlie told ABC News. "From the first court date on, it got worse."

Holden took a guilty plea deal in exchange for a reduced sentence — something that the Stewarts strongly rejected. Because Holden took the plea, he was sentenced to sixteen years in prison for Tina’s murder.

"They cut him a deal just because he admitted to doing it despite his dirty past," Charlie said. "Justice was not served."

Stewart admits the death of Tina took a great toll on her children.

After learning Holden would not serve a maximum sentence for his crime, Donald Estes, who considers himself an "uncle" to Tina, vowed to dedicate the rest of his life fighting for Tina’s justice and for every "Tina" who shares the same story.

Estes decided to advocate for bill that will require convicted domestic violence abusers to register as domestic violence offenders — a law he deems intuitive for a crime he said is often overlooked.

Tina’s Law

"Tina’s story is not an isolated incident, Estes said.

Estes, the uncle of Tina’s ex-boyfriend and father of her two kids, remembers Tina as the bubbly 11-year-old girl that could illuminate any room she walked into.

"She was the mother that everyone wanted to be, everyone needed to be," Estes said.

Estes diverted his anger and anguish into political motivation, into helping draft a law that will require convicted domestic violence abusers to register as such in public clearinghouse – one similar to the database for sexual offenders.

And he's advocated for the bill with Republican and Democratic members of the House and the Senate.

"Tina’s Law" would require convicted domestic violence perpetrators be placed on a newly-created National Domestic Violence Registry.

Estes is also pushing for Congress to fund D.A.R.E, a prevention program that teaches students about the negative effects of drug abuse, to include domestic violence awareness curriculums.

The only issue standing in the way of legislation approval is the negative effect it could potentially have on victims reporting on their abusers, according to Rep. Dan Newhouse’s office who has been working with Estes on the bill’s progression.

Elizabeth Daniels, the Civil Rights Legislative Assistant for Newhouse, told Estes via email they have yet to garner any support from domestic violence prevention advocacy groups or law enforcement groups due to this issue. But, Rep. Newhouse is on board with the idea.

"Rep. Newhouse is grateful to Mr. Estes for bringing up his idea to start this important conversation on how to help victims, and Rep. Newhouse’s staff has been working with stakeholders and domestic violence victims’ advocacy groups on options to move forward," a statement provided from Newhouse's office to ABC News read. "Working together, Congress, state governments, and advocates can make positive changes that protect victims of domestic violence and their privacy."

"Our opposition to domestic violence registry proposals, such as "Tina's Law," is rooted in both our concerns about the negative, unintended consequences of such a registry for domestic violence, and our commitment to pursue public policy solutions to violence that are supported by best practice and available evidence," Tamaso Johnson, the public policy director at the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence told ABC News. "Particularly, we are concerned about the impact that a registry would have on victim privacy because publicizing an abusive partner’s name would often lead to identification of that person's partner as well."

Johnson said a registry would be an ineffective metric that may lead to a "false sense of security" because of low rates of reporting to law enforcement from domestic violence victims.

Estes has also reached out to his state lawmakers including Republican Washington state senator Shelly Short and Republican state Rep. Brad Klippert for approval to help push the bill in the legislature for approval.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, during a 10-year period from 2006-2015, 76% of domestic violence victims reported their abusers to authorities and 48% of victims or other household members signed a criminal complaint against their perpetrators.

But Estes and Stewart’s family are determined to move forward with Tina’s Law.

"How many more Tinas do we have to lose?" Estes said.

PHOTO: Tina Stewart, 30-year-old, who lost her life to domestic violence on Nov. 24, 2017. Her family has now proposed a bill in honor of he
Tina Stewart, 30-year-old, who lost her life to domestic violence on Nov. 24, 2017. Her family has now proposed a bill in honor of he
Courtesy Donald Estes

Remembering Tina

"I miss her every single day," Lora Stewart said. "Memories come back to me and I just laugh."

Life hasn't been easy since Tina's death, according to Stewart. Tina's children are currently in therapy and each of her loved ones try to cope with her death day by day.

Stewart and her family remember "Tina the Tiny Tornando" as the small, altruistic ball of energy who didn't take anything from anyone.

"She'd finish her shift at the daycare center she worked at, run home and make pb&j sandwiches just to give them to the homeless," Estes told ABC News. "That's just who she was."

The Stewart's held a memorial service at Tina's grave this past July for her birthday. According to Stewart, about 300 people gathered to sing "Amazing Grace" and to celebrate her life with a balloon send-off over the river.

Charlie's daughter turned three right before Tina's birthday celebration and said something that surprised him, but left him feeling "warm" and "amazed."

"We're waiting for Auntie Tina," Charlie's daughter said in front of multiple people that day. "She's coming."