Parents of Slain Minnesota Woman Maria Pew Fury Say Isolation of COVID-19 Pandemic Worsened Domestic Abuse
Domestic violence has surged during the pandemic as stay-at-home orders isolate victims with their abusers, advocacy groups say.
The parents of a Minnesota woman who was allegedly killed by her husband say the isolation of the coronavirus pandemic turned the domestic abuse she was allegedly already experiencing in her marriage deadly. Maria Pew Fury, 28, was killed by her husband, Joshua Fury, on April 30 because she told him she intended to leave him, prosecutors allege in the criminal complaint. Joshua has been charged with second-degree murder in her death.
Joshua was described as "controlling and possessive," according to the complaint, and Maria's parents, Lissa Weimelt and Bill Pew, told NBC Nightly News they believe the coronavirus stay-at-home order made Maria more vulnerable. "That was not a safe place for her to be," Lissa told NBC Nightly News. "It further isolated her."
One in three women in the world experience physical or sexual violence in her lifetime, most often at the hands of a partner, according to the World Health Organization.
Worldwide, the coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-home orders meant to curb it have led to a "horrifying global surge violence in domestic violence," according to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
Maria and Joshua had been married for only a year before her death. Her parents described their daughter's husband as "controlling."
"I think it was pretty intense, really fast," her mother said of the couple's marriage.
Then the pandemic hit, and Maria was forced to shelter in place with Joshua. On April 30, an argument occurred and Joshua allegedly strangled Maria and then hid her body in a crawl space in their house before reporting her missing to police, according to the complaint.
Police said that at first Joshua told them he hadn't killed Maria, according to the complaint, but later "admitted killing victim and burying her body in the crawl space the morning of Thursday, April 30. He said he strangled her during an argument about victim leaving him."
Joshua is being held on $2 million bail and it is unclear if he has entered a plea. His attorney, Joseph Tamburino, declined InsideEdition.com's request for comment.
Maria's parents, who adopted her from Mexico when she was just a baby, said they are struggling with what more they could have done to protect her.
"You just think, 'Why didn't I say all the things that I am faulting myself for now?' [Tell her] 'Run, my God, run, run.' Why didn't I say that?" Lissa told NBC Nightly News.
In a statement, the family described Maria as "a striver, an achiever, a pusher, a problem solver, and a doer; always putting those attributes to use."
"Maria did not need or want a big life," they added. "She wanted a small and personal life, with just a few in it, to whom she gave her love to intensely. She was private and introverted at times, yet always smiling, generous, warm and welcoming. Her ability to be in the moment, to just experience a new joy, was a remarkable trait about Maria."
Her parents have started a campaign in their daughter's honor, Maria's Voice, to help others experiencing domestic violence.
"We know COVID-19 is a pandemic, but so is domestic violence," Lissa said.
Domestic violence organizations want people to know that even amid the mass disruption COVID-19 has caused to everyday life, people don't have to tolerate abusive situations. Police are still responding, restraining orders are still being issued, shelters are still accepting those in need and women who need help can still get it.
For those who are worried about reaching out for help while locked down with their abuser, domestic violence organization webpages have a button at the top of the navigation bar to quickly exit the site.
Text and chat options can also be used by people who are worried about having their phone calls overheard by an abusive partner.
If you or someone you know needs help, you can reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, chat online on www.thehotline.org, or text "loveis" to 22522.
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