"Domestic violence causes far more pain than the visible marks of bruises and scars. It is devastating to be abused by someone that you love and think loves you in return."
It was the 26th of June 2018. A Tuesday. Twenty eight year old Christina Marie Woods was reported missing to the police from her home in South Bend, Indiana, United States. Nobody knew where she was. Her family were concerned for her safety as she had four children and they believed she would not have just left without letting them know where she was going.
Christina's children were aged between just three and thirteen years old. She had her first child, a girl, when she was sixteen. Christina adored her children.Her own childhood was not great as her father was not around for her and she really did not want her children to have the same life that she had.
Christina, Troy and the children
Even though she had the best intentions, life didn't turn out exactly as Christina had hoped. Her marriage to her husband, Troy Woods, was over . They were going through a divorce and custody battle. But one thing was clear. No matter how hard life was for Christina, her family knew she would not have just left her children. Something must have happened to her.
Police retraced her last known movements. What became clear in the search for Christina was the love she had for the children. She loved to dance with them and knew all the lines of their favourite Disney movies because they all watched them so many times together. Even though she was in the process of a divorce, her relationship with Troy had improved as of late and they had spent time at the beach at the start of June with the four children. She was determined that Troy would be very much a part of their lives. She was also incredibly happy when she was offered a new job. Christina knew she would be able to provide for the children. So the fact that she just disappeared made the police believe that something sinister may have happened to her.
Over the course of the investigation, police discovered Christina was last seen on the 9th of June dropping the children off in Indiana. Her step father received a text message from her on the 12th of June. She told him she was in trouble and needed help and wanted him to pick her up but two hours later, he received another text message which said that she was fine and not to tell her mother. There was other unusual activity, including not taking money out of her account, which she would normally do.
Her phone records showed that her last movement in terms of the phone signal placed her in Eveleth on the 12th of June. This led police to a man called Daniel Lynn.
Daniel was the forty year old husband of Christina's best friend Brooke. Christina and Brooke had grown up together. They had known each other for twenty five years. But their relationship was not great in recent times as Christina was having an affair with Daniel. Police wanted to speak to him.
It emerged that Christina and Daniel did not have the best relationship and he physically assaulted her in the past, so much so that she had spent time in hospital following a physical altercation with Daniel. There were reports on file in relation to domestic abuse. In their search for Christina, police went to an eighty acre property in the northern Cook area of St Louis County. Neighbours in the area said there were cars there between the 11th of June and the 15th of June. A member of Daniel's family owned the property. Daniel confirmed he had been there with his wife Brooke and child as he needed to prepare the property for a memorial service. They were there since the 12th of June. But he said that he had not seen Christina and had no idea where she was.
Police searched the property. It was in the middle of nowhere. They found the lawn was freshly mowed and they found bleach and other cleaning materials on the property.They also found a fire pit. Around the fire pit, police discovered metal buttons from jeans and a necklace.
Police received an anonymous tip from somebody who alleged Daniel Lynn admitted he killed someone but that the body would never be found. Police feared that Christina was dead and spoke to Daniel's wife Brooke. At the police station, she admitted that Christina was dead. She saw Daniel strangle her. According to Brooke, she wasn't involved and didn't do anything. She knew he buried Christina's body because she saw him take a shovel from the house.
Brooke and Daniel
Following a further search of the land on foot of a search warrant, on the 2nd of July, police found Christina's body. It was wrapped and bound , in a foetal position, in a shallow grave on the property.
The Autopsy revealed that the bruises under Christina's chest and on her back were internal and her cause of death was determined as homicidal violence.
Police could not arrest Daniel immediately as he went on the run and remained in hiding for ten days. He was eventually arrested at a trailer in a campsite owned by Brooke's family. Brooke was with him.
Daniel was sentenced to sixteen and a half years in prison for second-degree murder and Brooke pleaded guilty to harbouring a felon. She was sentenced to one year in prison.
As part of a plea deal, Daniel plead guilty to unintentional second degree murder. He admitted that he travelled to his family's property on the 12th of June and strangled Christina. The motive is unclear but from the reports of domestic violence against Christina, it is clear that he is a dangerous man. Before he killed Christina, she was hospitalised for a separate assault. His violence against her escalated and unfortunately ended in her death. Christina had managed to get her life on track. She had four children she loved and a plan to financially support. But her love for Daniel meant that she continued to see him, to forgive him, to hope that he would change and to hope that he would love her instead of beating her. Her mother Mary hopes her daughter will be remembered as a woman:
"I don't want Christina to be be remembered as a victim of domestic violence, or a murder victim. She is a human being, a mother, a sister, a daughter."
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
- Eileen McNamara, the Boston Globe
"The effects of abuse are devastating and far reaching. Domestic violence speaks many languages, has many colors and lives in many different communities."
- Sandra Pupatello