On the evening of March 16th, the body of Tina Adovasio was found in the woods of Westchester County, NY. The mother of four had been reported missing by her estranged husband, Eddy Coello, a month after filing for divorce and getting a restraining order against him following several years of domestic violence.
Coello has since been charged with Adovasio’s murder and is being held in protective custody without bail. The couple’s marriage is reported to have been “marked by bouts of domestic violence”, which included a hospital stay for Adovasio following an attack by Coello. Last month, when filing for a protective order against Coello, Adovasio told cops, “if anything happens to me, look at him.” The last time that Adovasio was seen alive was entering the couple’s former home in order to retrieve some of her belongings.
Coello had a long history of violence. He left his job as a New York City Police Officer while being investigated for beating his former partner, Glory Perez. She describes being “terrorized” by Coello throughout the three years of their relationship When speaking about their relationship, Perez says that at the initial stages of their relationship, Coello was “perfect” but eventually, things turned sour and eventually led to beatings. Perez describes the isolation and fear that she felt in her situation, but eventually, she was able to leave Coello and eventually cut off all ties with him. The isolation that Perez felt is one of the most powerful tools that an abuser has. Perez illustrates this by talking about how she felt unable to leave the relationship because she had nowhere to go and felt alone.
There are many important points in this case that we can hopefully learn from. Since the most dangerous time in an abusive relation ship is when the victim is planning to leave or has recently left, careful safety planning is critical. The abuser no longer has the power and control in the relationship, which can lead to them doing often violent things against their victims.Safety planning can be as broad as making a list of important items that they need to have with them, should they decide to leave suddenly e.g. a passport, medications, change of clothes. It can also be very specific. We might ask the client who else they have told about their concerns with the relationship? Sometimes it can be helpful to have a boss or co-worker, a neighbor or landlord be aware of the situation so they can assist, if asked.
The situation that Perez describes is a classic example of the cycle of violence in an abusive relationship. Abusers often appear “perfect”, charming or very kind at the beginning of the relationship, but eventually they become jealous and possessive, as Coello appears to have done in his relationship with Perez. The slow escalation of the situation allows the abuser to maintain control over their victim, who may not be able to recognize how dangerous the situation has become.
One of the other important things to consider in this sad case are the unfortunate limitations of the law. The police force did take action against Coello after his abuse towards Perez became public. He was removed from his position as a police officer and eventually his firearms were taken away from him. He was also arrested twice during his relationship with Adovasio after physically attacking her and when Adovasio filed for divorce, she was granted a protective order. However, it is clear from Adovasio’s statements to police that she clearly feared him, so we need to ask, “what more could have been done to protect her?” A short survey done by the website covering the story asked readers if they thought the police do enough to crack down on violence and over 70% of respondents feel that not enough is done in these cases.
We have a 24-hour hotline that victims can call for crisis counseling or if they want help safety planning. By talking with one of our volunteers, victims can identify some of the steps that they can take to stay safe, whether they are leaving their relationship or planning on staying. We can also help victims file protective orders and offer support groups for victims. Our hotline number is 919-929-7122 and a volunteer is available 24 hours a day.