Speaker 1 (00:03):
Telling it like it is bringing the community together and working for justice attorney, Travis McConnell talks politics, trending news, and how you can make a difference. You’re listening to you. We Trust Travis. Hi everyone. I’m Sarina Fazan. I’m a journalist, producer, and the host of the We Trust Travis podcast. I am here with Travis McConnell, a personal injury attorney with a huge passion for the community. And we thank you for joining us for this episode. So let’s get to it, Travis. Nice to see you. You as well, Travis though, today we are, you’re going to share a story with us, a very emotional story about someone you cared about very much named Mary Hoffman.
Speaker 2 (00:46):
Yeah, so Mary was a paralegal that worked for me is how I initially met her. And we became really close friends and she was killed and had a big impact on my life. And it was something that I shared with you and you thought it’d be good to talk about and be vulnerable with people sort of the impact that’s had on my life. So what will, what would you like to know?
Speaker 1 (01:10):
Well, we are so sorry for your loss. And on this episode, we’re going to talk about how sadly that, that did happen to Mary and bring up awareness of domestic, domestic violence. Yeah. So take us back. When did you first meet Mary? You said she was one of your paralegals. How long ago was that? And was that when you lived in Florida or did you meet her in Indiana? I know you practiced law in boats.
Speaker 2 (01:36):
Yeah, there was an Indiana and it was several years ago. It was I want to say like three or four years ago because she was killed about a year ago. And so it really hasn’t been that long. She had worked for me. I knew her for two, three years before it happened. So how old was she? She was a little older than I, that I am. She was, I think not quite 40 or maybe right around there. So,
Speaker 1 (02:08):
So w was she a single mom or, you know, had she just entered the dating world or just, or just tell us about her?
Speaker 2 (02:14):
And she was just she, she had a boyfriend at the time that I initially met her. And they’d been together for quite some time and she was an awesome person. She’ll she was a nurse before she worked for me and RN, and she had gotten into a little bit of trouble. And I was helping her out and she ended up surrendering her nursing license and coming to work in with me. And
Speaker 1 (02:41):
And I want to point out, like, when you said that she got into a little trouble and she had to surrender her nursing license, we all deserve a second chance. Like things sadly right. Happened in life. We look back and we think, Oh my gosh, but yeah, we deserve a second chance. So you gave Mary that second chance. So struggled with
Speaker 2 (03:00):
Opioid addiction as what she struggled with. And so she got caught with some drugs and lost, lost her job. And I actually, I don’t think she had to surrender the license completely. She ended up working out a deal with the licensing authority somehow, but she got in trouble and that’s why she was left the field and realized that she needed to get out of the field to get away from the temptation as it were. And so when I first interviewed her what was the big thing to me is that she was honest and candid about it. So at the end of the interview, I just asked her, well, is there anything else I need to know about? Like open-ended with the, I looked up her history and I saw that she had one. And so she, she came right out with it.
Speaker 1 (03:47):
It’s really interesting because she may not have known since you are a lawyer and you have that research background, you would know, you think that we all would research, you know who we’re interviewing or when we go out to do something, but th th this is an automatic for you to be a researcher. So you already knew some of her, her background. Okay.
Speaker 2 (04:08):
I knew the stuff that was publicly available. Yeah. So, and then which isn’t that much, I think there were, but it was like a charge for possession of a syringe or something like that. That’s what it was. But yeah, she ended up telling me more about it and just came right out with it. And you know, explain that’s part of why she was getting out of the nursing field. If not, full-time at least taking a break to, you know, put some distance there to not have the temptation. And we ended up talking about it extensively and set up a whole plan, like, well, I’d love to help you with them and give you a second chance. And as long as you’re honest, like my big thing is honesty. And she was always honest and forthright, she had struggles, but, you know, we worked it through and we ended up becoming really close friends. She was a great paralegal. She was both my, one of my best in my worst because of the struggles when she was having downtime, that would be the worst. But the other times having a nurse on staff is great for a personal injury lawyer. Obviously she was great at summarizing medical records going through stuff like that. Being able to help clients, she actually saved one of our client’s lives. Literally that’s a fun story.
Speaker 1 (05:16):
No, I was going to tell you though, how did she say the client’s life?
Speaker 2 (05:19):
So we had a client who had a fall and at a facility in Indiana in that had a case and she was doing poorly and Mary just kind of had, she had this way of helping people. She was a volunteer for the red cross with her nursing degree, and she was just one of the nicest people you’ve ever met. And lots of people knew her and everybody had nothing but good things to say about her. And the, so this client hadn’t reached out for quite some time, and I don’t know what it was if it was just a sense from the universe or what it was, but married to. So, you know, this is something she’s not answering the call. She’s not responding. I’m just gonna swing by her house and check on her. And so she stood by her house and checked on her and she found her on the floor and a bad stay in and the having to take her to the ER and ER, basically said, you know, if we hadn’t gotten her actually probably could have died because I forget exactly what the condition was
Speaker 1 (06:18):
Person though, in Mary to actually not just to take that extra step to go to this person.
Speaker 2 (06:23):
Yeah. It was funny because she asked me, I’m like, yeah, if you think you need to go, go like, you know, we do that. So go we’re there for people.
Speaker 1 (06:31):
Well, I want to go back to when you initially interviewed Mary. So even before bringing her in, you must’ve seen this history of hers. Wha what had you bring her in, in the first place? Because a lot of people may have said, well, you know, she’s had some, you know problems and problems. I’m just not going to deal with it, which I can understand that too. But why did you want to bring her in, in the first place?
Speaker 2 (07:01):
But to me, the big thing was dynasty and that she was honest about it. And I think everybody deserves a second chance. I think you know, people deserve some grace. Maybe that comes from my faith. I’m a Christian, you know, feel like everybody deserves a second chance. I definitely have one friend. We want, we all make mistakes, but I think we can all subscribe to that. Whether no matter whatever faith we share, but yeah, I think the big thing was just, she, she, she wanted the help and I could provide it. And that’s part of, I think just part of my personality is I like that.
Speaker 1 (07:33):
Well, that’s why we trust Travis. That’s why we trust Travis. So Mary becomes a wonderful employee also. You know, and I know you said that there was the ups and downs, but she saved someone’s life. She also is a friend, you know that you’re giving a second chance to, so then what happened?
Speaker 2 (07:51):
So she ended up moving away from Indiana and she decided to move to Washington. And she had broken up with her former boyfriend and met a different guy and he ended up moving out there with her.
Speaker 1 (08:02):
And this is Washington state because a lot of times when you say Washington, some people think DC, but we’re talking Washington state Tacoma. I believe it was. And that’s my home state. So I’m very familiar with Tacoma.
Speaker 2 (08:13):
So they moved out there and she moved initially. And then he kind of followed her out there. And ultimately there were ups and downs and he didn’t do well with alcohol and there was some abuse going on and like, we would talk about it on the phone. We stayed close and she would still kind of help out with stuff. Like if I needed something to summarize, I could email and she could summarize it and send it back and kind of Moonlight that way, even though she wasn’t in the office. But
Speaker 1 (08:38):
As her friend, were you concerned about her during the time when she was calling and also, you know, as a lawyer, I think that you have a heightened sense of awareness with people. So as she was calling you, what were you thinking at the time
Speaker 2 (08:52):
That you need to get away from him? You need to break up, this is not good. Are there guns in the house that are not as you need to, you know, make sure there’s not, and you know, don’t be stupid while she worked with me. I mean, like we would actually help people that were victims of domestic violence ourselves. Like both. She and I had taken people to the local domestic violence, sexual assault center to like, get them help that needed help is something that we both kind of had a passion for just again, helping people. And I actually was on the the local shelters board for awhile was the vice-president and then president. And so yeah, Mary and I helped other people get help. And so she knew what she needed to do. Like when you’re in the middle of it yourself, you’re, you know, judgment gets impaired. So we had talked on the phone like, Hey, you know, this is bad and you know where this is headed potentially. And was she scared? You know, she’s not the type of person that got scared.
Speaker 1 (09:49):
I knew that it was not a good situation and a good healthy situation, but you’re right. When you are in love or you feel that you are in live, you just cannot see clearly as a journalist, I have seen so many of the most sane people go insane, in fact, because they’re blinded by the love. So,
Speaker 2 (10:06):
And it wasn’t even so much that I think that’s definitely a part of it, but it was more of a, she was like such a strong, independent type person where she would have thought like, yeah, this is bad, but I’ll take care of it. Like if something happens, I kick his or something. Yeah. Yeah. Well, well, you know what, I made that live. She probably had a plan, but it didn’t go the way, you know, it would have, because basically how it happened is they were out of the bar and they came home drunk and then she killed her and killed himself. So that’s so sad. So like she wasn’t able to defend herself cause they’re both drunk. So yeah,
Speaker 1 (10:41):
That’s that’s so sad. Do you know the specifics of the,
Speaker 2 (10:45):
Unfortunately, which was a blessing and a curse, I suppose. So I knew a lot of the details. So she was telling me some of the, you know, the lead up to it, but like about a week or two before the murder, she had sent me a text as well as I think, two other people about he threatened to kill me that may be a slight paraphrase. And she was like, you know, don’t freak out. I just want this to be, I just want somebody else to have this just in case which was ended up being early predictive. So I ended up having to give that to the Tacoma law enforcement and the family ended up contacting me as well since I was the lawyer to kind of help with things. So I know all the details as far as what happened and all those sorts of things, I didn’t go out there afterwards. Some of the other friends and family did, and they got to see the actual aftermath, which would pipe in even worse. But the, so basically they, they were out of the bar. They left the bar, came home and sometime that early morning she was stabbed multiple times choked and he took his own life with a gun shot, his head off. So
Speaker 1 (12:03):
Heartbreaking, just heart-wrenching. So with that happening, I can only imagine how much that has changed
Speaker 2 (12:11):
Your life. Yeah. I mean, a big thing. I blamed myself for a real long time. I was basically depressed for months three, four months and was blaming myself for a lot of it because I knew I got that text message. And I was worried about the fact that like, did we ever connect after that text message? And was avoiding looking back at my phone records to verify if I had, or hadn’t ended up going to counseling, highly recommend counseling, the folks it’s not overrated and don’t be too tough for one of those people that thinks, you know, you don’t need it, everybody could use it. Even if you don’t think you have issues, it’s good to have somebody to talk things through. But so I ended up going to a counselor and the counselor was like, you’ve got to go back and look that we wish, you know, what the answer is, and then you can deal with it.
Speaker 2 (12:56):
And so I went back and looked and we never actually connected, but like I had made multiple calls during times that she would have been available to talk and she just didn’t answer the phone, which made me feel kind of nice. It was like, okay, why did my part just to get an answer? But then the fun, extra wrinkle that we got looking at the phone records is she actually probably called me at the time that it was happening. So there was a car right around the timeline of when everything had happened. And like, she was likely like, I was probably her last call sort of thing. That was like one of those one minute calls and I didn’t have a voicemail. So it was probably like she started to dial in through the phone or something like that.
Speaker 1 (13:34):
So to live with that as well,
Speaker 2 (13:37):
I am certain that I got extra there.
Speaker 1 (13:40):
Did the counselor help with that?
Speaker 2 (13:43):
Yeah, extremely. So it’s one of those things where you look back and like, so I blamed myself for like, not going out there, not doing more. You could have done all these things and it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d gone out there or not. Anyway, Mary was such that strong, stubborn person. It wouldn’t matter. She was going to do it. She was going to do it anyway. Yeah.
Speaker 1 (14:02):
And, and, and honestly again as, and I will reiterate what, and I’m not a counselor and I’m not, I don’t have a degree in counseling, but of course you cannot, you know, blame, you’re blaming yourself. Right.
Speaker 2 (14:13):
But I saved people as a profession. I like to help people. And so I felt like I had failed her. And that’s why I think what it was and for like the first time in my life, I had this like colossal failure that I never really had to deal with before. You know, there’s like small failures here and there along the way, or you lose a case, although that doesn’t happen terribly often knock on wood. But it was just like for the first time in my life, I felt like a real failure.
Speaker 1 (14:38):
How are you living with it now? I didn’t realize that it only been a year. I thought it had been a little bit longer, so it really did not happen too long ago
Speaker 2 (14:45):
For a year or two years. I’m trying to, I’d have to get out of calendar. I’m like, probably, but honestly, when, when tragic things happen
Speaker 1 (14:52):
Like this, it is hard to keep the dates in order, like you think, Oh gosh, was it a year ago? Was it two years ago? Because I think it was
Speaker 2 (15:00):
20, 20 the year of like 50 years, right. Yes.
Speaker 1 (15:02):
Right, right. And we block out, we block out, I feel traumatizing events or the, the memories of some of those traumatizing events. But, but I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt you. I know it’s changed you. Like how, how are you dealing with it now?
Speaker 2 (15:21):
Yeah. So a big thing is it just made me realize, you know, the priorities and like what matters. So I used to be a real workaholic and I still am. It’s my personality tendency that I love my job. I had a huge passion for what I do. I get justice tattooed on my arm for crying out loud.
Speaker 1 (15:38):
I didn’t notice that I wanted to talk to you about that.
Speaker 2 (15:42):
So I realized like, yes, that’s important, but like make time for family, make time for friends, be more intentional and the relationship type of things. And so I make a point to, you know, leave the office unless I’m in a trial or something like that. That there’s a real exception, like four o’clock from get home, be with the wife and kids, all those sorts of things and make a point to like really keep the priorities in line and be more relational, do more on the, those levels. Again,
Speaker 1 (16:11):
It can sadly be an eye-opener to life after you with this horrible loss. What about domestic violence awareness though? Talk to me about that. I mean, talk to me about, you were all already passionate about raising awareness for this issue.
Speaker 2 (16:31):
So that started probably a year or two before I knew Mary even right around the same time. Maybe I don’t remember the timeline, but the, the demon home is the local domestic violence and sexual assault outreach in, in, in a shelter in Warsaw. And the former executive director invited me to consider being on their board. And we got to know more and more about it, and it was always something that like, I would be in an attorney, I would get clients. Sometimes they would tell clients, tell lawyers things that they don’t tell other people. Especially when you have those close relationships with them, which I like to do and really get to know people. So you get people that tell you stories a lot. And even back then, like I would talk with people about things, but then like having joined the board and learned about all the different resources and the more and more you learned about it, the more better equipped yards to help people.
Speaker 2 (17:30):
And so I would be able to talk with people more substantially. And then ultimately I knew like, I may know this a little bit, but like, there’s this great resource over here in our town, which is amazing. And I could just get these people to connect over here. And so often they won’t and at first it was like, Hey, you should call here. Hey, you should call or you should go there. And then I realized people weren’t going, cause there’s like that barrier. And so then, and they didn’t want to go when they’re supposed to. Then I realized actually what’s better is I’ll take you there. And so I started, you know, I’ll go with you, you know, and help people that way. So on another thing that you know, learned about is I don’t know what the state of Florida, but the state of Indiana I’m pretty sure it’s a national nationwide thing. Domestic violence victims are able to get out of leases if they’re a domestic violence victim because otherwise they can’t get trapped with their abusers. And so I’ve helped a few people with that where like they’re victims and they’re like, know, I can’t leave because the landlord is gonna assume me. And he said, well, you’d actually, don’t have to worry about that. We can send a letter to your landlord and explain the situation.
Speaker 1 (18:35):
Is that hard to prove though? Cause I know there’s a lot of victims out there. You hear it all the time where they won’t go to court, you know, because they’re so, so afraid. So from a legal standpoint, and I know you can speak, you know, from in regards to the state of Indiana, is that hard to prove
Speaker 2 (18:53):
The part with the lease? No. You just have to have their report showing like where you went to the facility or that there was a police report to show like, here it is. And to give that like this is happening and that’s all that’s required for the leash, according to the law. As far as proving the cases and prevailing against your perpetrators, your abusers. Yeah. That’s hard. And it’s, it’s a tough thing for people to do because so often abusers get away with it. A lot of that’s because victims don’t testify. But there’s a reason why victims don’t testify and that’s because a lot of times, if they do, the person gets a slap on the wrist, domestic violence is a misdemeanor. So which the maximum is a year in jail for a misdemeanor. And usually for our first offense, you’re not going to get a year in jail.
Speaker 2 (19:37):
You might get a month. If that sometimes less, sometimes more just depends if you don’t have our history. I mean, you’re not going to get a lot of time. You’re going to score lower, have low reasons to get a higher sentence. And so even if you go and you testify against this person on a first time offense for a misdemeanor and you prevail, they’re going to get right back out of jail real seriously, come right back after you. And this is a big concern that victims have. So, and then there’s the mental complications that come along with it, as far as like battered women’s syndrome, veterans, the battered person disease this, a mental health thing. And you know, the, I feel like domestic violence should be, you know, some sort of a higher punishment level, maybe some mandatory jail time potentially or something like that.
Speaker 2 (20:24):
The system is so broken that it’s just, it’s just sad that she in in Indiana, I take a little bit of criminal defense cases and like all part of that system now to a certain extent where like I represent people who are accused of it. And there are some people that are accused that are not guilty. Some people that are wrongly accused, but there’s a large that you see they’re accused. And then, you know, the, the one statement here goes away and it’s completely different story because the witness won’t cooperate and they ended up getting a slap on the wrist or the case gets thrown out.
Speaker 1 (21:00):
What do you think, what do you think we should be looking for in, you know with our friends or loved ones? Are there any key signs that we should be looking for that might raise awareness or raise the red flag that our loved one might be being abused?
Speaker 2 (21:19):
I probably need to pull them up, but if you go on to the national coalition against domestic violence or NCAA D V they’ve got all sorts of great resources on there where you can familiar, familiarize yourself with like, here’s the warning signs to look out for. I mean, just talk to your friends, talk about it. The big, the big thing that happens in domestic situations, it’s just like the abuser controls the person. It may not necessarily be physical. Most of it’s not physical, we’re not violent. But a lot of it is just a control to look out for. And so if you see somebody who their partner is, you know, controlling their schedule, controlling their time, not letting you talk to them constantly taking their phone, things like that. If they’re raising their voice, if they’re warning signs are, you know, before they hit you, they’re going to hit the table and they’re going to hit the wall, they’re going to hit other things. There’s an escalation that things generally happen. Then it doesn’t immediately go to a murder suicide. And you can, there’s all sorts of signs usually before it gets that far.
Speaker 1 (22:20):
So what are you guys doing at your law firm? I know you do a lot of pro bono things and we’re actually going to have going to have another podcast about how you spread kindness in your community, but as it relates to domestic violence and especially your beloved friend, Mary Hoffer, what do you do to try to stop the curve?
Speaker 2 (22:41):
Well, I mean, we support the local shelter and then we’re here to help any victim that wants to help another problem with the victims. And the help is the statistics show that survivors will end up leaving and going back to their abuser on average seven times before they finally leave permanently. And so I think it’s frustrating for friends to, you know, don’t give up on your friends just because they’re going back, it’s harder to look like, will judge them, like, why do you keep going back, but stick with them and stand by them? You know? So I mean, I think just the main thing is just, you know, continuing to partner, continuing to keep an ear out to noon, to help anybody that comes in our path.
Speaker 1 (23:23):
Hmm. I think you also brought up something else too, that I would lie. I would like to talk about a little bit more here you are, you know, you’re an ex you’re a successful attorney. You have your own podcast. I’m happily married with two wonderful children and I loved how you openly talked about it’s okay to get counseling. Can you talk about that a little bit more and reassure, give them the message and share that, that it’s okay. If you need help, that you can talk to them.
Speaker 2 (23:50):
Yeah. I mean, so I actually called the there’s a program through the bar. That’s available to lawyers and it’s called the judges lawyers assistance program. So I called them to have accountability with it too. So they, they like it. You need to get to counseling and then they check in on you and hold you accountable again. It’s just something to there’s there’s no, there should be no fear of counseling. I think a lot of times people think that like, they’re going to go to counseling and there’ll be worried that the counselor is going to pull something out of them. And some deep dark, like, you go to counseling with what you take the counseling. They don’t know what they don’t know anything, unless you tell them. So like, if you’re afraid they’re going to get this thing out of you.
Speaker 2 (24:27):
Like, they’re known that they’re not going to get it out of you unless you tell them. So there, there are some people who go to counseling and it may or may not be overly successful because you only get out of it, what you put into it. But it’s immensely helpful for anybody to just be able to work through things or somebody who’s impartial. Who’s got the training to be able to give you that, but basically they help you be your best to you is the best way I would explain it. Think of them more as a life coach than a counselor. And even if you don’t think you have issues, we all got something that we can talk about and be better. At least at least I do. I don’t know, I’m not perfect, but maybe, maybe there’s a few people out there, but there’s always something to be that you can improve.
Speaker 2 (25:12):
And that’s really what they’re there for is to help you be a better you helping you move past things for people who have suffered from trauma. I highly recommend that I recommend it with clients. I’ve seen the success from my clients before I saw it with myself. The, and I had one client who was who, who we met on an earlier podcast. I mean, he was suicidal. I’m gonna cut his own leg off at one point. And he had multiple mental health treatments throughout his case. And now he’s doing great and he’s worked things through and he didn’t want to go at first. I think it’s tougher sometimes for guys or at least stereotypically to be more vulnerable like that. But yeah, I mean, don’t be afraid to go. And I mean, the big thing to me is just, if you want to be a better person, go to counseling.
Speaker 1 (25:55):
So let me ask you, and this may not even be a fair question to ask. What about people that might say, Oh my gosh, you know, I don’t know if my health insurance covers counseling or I don’t know if I could get counseling. Do you think there’s always, there is some type of counseling out there, no matter what,
Speaker 2 (26:10):
Unfortunately, in our society, maybe not. I mean, we live in a pay for medical treatment society rather than when there’s the whole national healthcare discussion and Medicare for all those sorts of things. But yeah, unfortunately I was able to afford it. Some people may not be able to afford it as much. There’s organizations that will help. There’s a lot of places. Most of them are more faith based. So if, if you’re opposed to going into a faith based place, then maybe you’re not gonna like that. But there usually there’s places that will do a sliding scale where you don’t have to pay as much. A lot of those are faith-based, but there’s probably some that aren’t and where you can go there and, you know, you may have to show him the pay stub to prove where your income is, but then now instead of having to pay a hundred dollars, maybe we’ll have to pay five based on your income. And so I think there’s a lot of, there’s a small number of those probably. And I think that number is probably pretty, pretty large, but depending on where you’re at,
Speaker 1 (27:08):
Well, as you, as you have preached in your podcast and very positively that do your homework, like do your homework. When you choose your attorney, if you do your homework, if you ask some simple questions, you could potentially get the answers that you need. And I think the same thing comes with counseling. You’ve just given us some great answers.
Speaker 2 (27:28):
Well, I think that’s the big thing where the counselor comes in is they’re, they’re great at asking the questions like you it’s, you it’s your answers, but they help you get to those answers by asking questions, maybe to get you where you’re not gonna be able to get on your own by coaching that way. And yeah, I mean, I know, I mean, you asked about health insurance, my health insurance, I know, covered mine. So if you have health insurance, just check with your insurance, but
Speaker 1 (27:53):
And, but if you don’t there could be help out there. It’s just a matter of, it’s just a matter of asking the question
Speaker 2 (27:58):
That’s right. And I mean, a lot of those places that have sliding scale, it’ll be on their website that says, yeah, we take a sliding scale based on income. So do your work and talk about doing your homework on the counselors. It’s hard to know if you’re going to like your counselor or if they’re how well they’re going to do. I mean, you can look at reviews obviously if they have them, but just because you have an unsuccessful experience with a counselor, I wouldn’t say like to rule off all counselors just try somebody else, you know, like don’t, you’re not going to necessarily click with the first person to go to maybe, you know, I was fortunate enough to do that. But I also knew the person that I went to. So I actually went to law school and she’s a lawyer and counselor. And w we weren’t that close in law school, but I’m like, yeah, it was interesting. But the, yeah, I mean, if you don’t like that one, then switch to a different one. You don’t have to stay with somebody. You don’t like, there’s lots of people out there and it’s a pretty personal thing. So,
Speaker 1 (28:54):
Well, we appreciate you sharing your personal story about Mary, because speaking about her and speaking about everything that she went through and what you went through to after she sadly passed away, I’m sure could encourage people to get help.
Speaker 2 (29:10):
Yeah. I mean, she was an amazing person she’s it was even like the brief time that she was in Tacoma. There were people from Tacoma that came over to Indiana for her funeral because of how awesome and the person that she was. And yeah,
Speaker 1 (29:25):
Well, we devote, we dedicate this podcast then to Mary Hoffer. Thanks. Thanks so much for joining us, everyone
Speaker 3 (29:40):
To learn more about Travis McConnell, head to Travis MCLaw.com. Thank you for listening to We Trust Travis.