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Victims’ advocates say trauma for child witness in Beaver Dam homicide will be ‘lifelong and profound’

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BEAVER DAM -- A 5-year-old girl was at a home in Beaver Dam where a bitter custody battle turned deadly Saturday, March 23, prosecutors said. Cash bond was set at $2 million Tuesday, March 26 for the suspect, Ulisses Media Espinosa, accused of shooting his ex-wife, Stacia Hollinshead 15 times. Court documents indicated the child didn't see the shooting, but she did hear the gunfire while in the next room. To make matters worse, the suspect is her father, and the victim her mother. She essentially lost both parents.

Old enough to remember, but too young to understand, the young child told investigators her dad "started shooting Mommy with a gun."

"The impact of a domestic violence homicide on children is lifelong and profound. Not only does a child lose one parent under the circumstances, they lose both simultaneously," said Courtney Olson.

Courtney Olson

Olson tracks domestic violence-related homicides in Wisconsin. She said children exposed to these kinds of crimes are at greater risk of becoming perpetrators or victims themselves.

"Because it's what they've grown up knowing is normal," said Olson.

Prosecutors said Espinosa showed up unexpectedly at his parents' home while his ex and their daughter were visiting.

The criminal complaint said the child told police "that's why we have a huge problem. My Mommy and Daddy aren't supposed to see each other."

Ulisses Medina Espinosa, Stacia Hollinshead

Heather Lawler

Hollinshead had full custody of the child, and previously obtained a restraining order against Espinosa. Family members said he was also stalking her.

"It's devastating each and every time. It gets us to be wondering, what could we be doing more?" said Heather Lawler.

The tragedy underscores the importance of Lawler's work. The victims' advocate will propose legislation in Madison this summer to make it illegal to commit an act of domestic violence in front of a minor.

"Right now, there's no laws that intensifies the damage of what that does in the home, unless they touch the child," said Lawler.

Beaver Dam fatal shooting

The goal is to break the cycle of abuse, while also protecting the most vulnerable victims.

"These children don't get a voice on whether they get to watch or hear it," said Lawler.

Victims' advocates said counseling and therapy is key in helping children process and recover from trauma like this.

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