5 protective orders preceded Joshua Livingston's murder case in Bloomington
This is the second of a two-part series about Joshua Livingston's record of violence and abuse in central Illinois, including a murder case in Bloomington. You can also read Part 1.
A Danvers man was no stranger to orders of protection when he was accused of strangling his girlfriend Melissa Ostrom with a piece of her clothing, 23 days after he was ordered to stay away from her as a condition of his release on bond on domestic violence charges.
Five women in three central Illinois counties have obtained court orders to keep Joshua Livingston away from them based on allegations of abuse and threats to their safety. A review of court records by WGLT reveals three orders of protection and two no-contact orders sought by the women starting in 2016.
At the time she was killed on April 16, a no-contact order was in effect that barred Livingston was being near Ostrom. Pending against Livingston at the time of Ostrom’s death were domestic violence charges stemming from a March incident between the couple.
The day Ostrom’s body was found, Livingston’s ex-wife asked for a two-year order of protection in McLean County. She told judge Carla Barnes about multiple instances of domestic battery and strangulation by Livingston. In granting the order that is effective for up to two years, the judge noted the three felony cases pending in McLean County and the violation of order of protection charges were unresolved in DeWitt County at the time.
'One tool in the toolbox in trying to intervene in domestic violence'
In multiple cases, Livingston violated the terms of no-contact or orders of protection issued against him. Prosecutors say he violated one order that barred contact with his child; a woman who spoke to WGLT on the condition of anonymity said Livingston would often message her while under a no-contact order — with the goal of getting her to drop it altogether.
"He's a really manipulative guy. He can make you feel bad — and I did feel bad. Like, 'How dare I get this order of protection.' He repeatedly said, 'Just drop the OP. Drop the OP and everything will be fine.'"
Given her experiences with harassment from Livingston, the woman said she did consider asking for another no-contact order once she read headlines that he was accused of murder in April.
"Everyone told me to. My answer was always, 'No,' because of my experiences with the court and police. I didn't want to have to go through that again," she said.
The executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Vickie Smith, describes orders of protection as "one tool in the toolbox in trying to intervene in domestic violence situations."
"The order of protection is not a resolution in and of itself," she said in an interview.
Smith said providing safety to survivors of abuse, harassment or domestic violence is contingent upon multiple factors working together, which is why advocates and organizations helping survivors focus on things like safety plans as well.
"Just going to court and having a judge say, 'Don't hurt her anymore,' doesn't mean that person isn't going to continue their behavior. In fact, it oftentimes accelerates," Smith said.
Smith also said it's not uncommon for people to feel like their order of protection didn't go far enough.
"Unfortunately, I don't think [the criminal justice system] takes them serious enough," she said. "They don't fully comprehend how complicated this is and how, even though the courts are saying, 'Don't behave that way,' people are going to behave the way that they are," she said.
'I told him he had no choice but to leave'
Livingston, who is known as Cyrus, also has been on the receiving end of orders of protection in Peoria and DeWitt counties.
In April 2022, Livingston was accused in a DeWitt County felony case of driving on a revoked license and criminal damage to property after he drove his pickup truck through a woman’s front yard in Waynesville. Livingston left the DeWitt County jail after someone paid his $300 bond. More bail money would be needed as Livingston racked up a series of charges for failure to appear in court ahead of a May 2023 trial.
Facebook postings filed as evidence in the criminal case show Livingston complaining that the victim in the property damage case acted as an anonymous source in providing information to Normal Police. The investigation into the unlawful possession of a debit card led to criminal charges against Livingston.
The woman whose lawn was damaged sought a no-contact order against Livingston. In her request for the court order, the woman recounted an incident in May 2022 — a month after he drove his truck across her property — in which he came to her home and “was pounding on my front door so hard my neighbors were concerned.”
May of 2022 was also the month a woman who had dated Livingston and allowed him to live in a school bus parked on her property, asked a judge for an order of protection. In the paperwork seeking that order, the woman alleged Livingston harassed and threatened her and her two young children, forcing them at one point to stay at a hotel. He refused to leave her property after he arrived there while he was “extremely drunk,” according to the court filing.
The order of protection was granted and expired on Jan. 1, 2023. A week later, Livingston’s former girlfriend asked to extend the order, a request the judge denied because the order had expired. A second order, this one is effect until February 2025, was granted in January.
In a social media post that included a photo of Livingston and his former girlfriend, he referred to the couple’s engagement and called her “a smiling snake,” as he accused her of providing information to Normal Police.
During the 12 months that preceded Ostrom’s death, the women Livingston allegedly abused began to communicate with one another.
In an October 2022 exchange between Ostrom and Livingston’s former fiancée, Ostrom was looking for information about Livingston, the man she had dated and who was becoming increasingly volatile, according to records filed in his DeWitt County criminal case.
Ostrom opened the message with, “You don’t know me, but I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions about Cyrus.” She went on to explain that Livingston had been calling her “horrible names and attacking me over him going through my phone, looking for evidence that she had been cheating on him,” an accusation she denied.
Ostrom said she had stood up to Livingston after refusing to “tolerate that kind of behavior in my life. I literally started throwing his stuff out my door and I told him he had no choice but to leave.”
In her comments to the other woman, Ostrom described Livingston as “a hobosexual,” a slang term for a person who enters into relationships to avoid being homeless.
Another woman who became suspicious of a gift she received from Livingston also reached out to his ex-fiancé in a 2022 Facebook message. She asked if the Cricut machine used by people for craft projects may have been taken by Livingston and subsequently “gifted” to her.
The two women later met at the Pekin Police Department to transfer the item back to its rightful owner, the former fiancé, said court documents. Another social media message between the women describes Livingston as being “fired up” that the gift had been returned.
The ex-girlfriends also talked about the engagement ring, allegedly stolen from the former fiancé’s home, and later sold by Livingston.
Orders of protection did not stop Livingston from attempting to contact the woman he planned to marry, she said in a narrative attached to her petition for a protective order. She feared for her safety, based on information that he was “still clearly obsessed” with her and using methamphetamines and alcohol.
The criminal case against Livingston in DeWitt County was resolved in a May jury trial while he was incarcerated in McLean County on the murder charges in Ostrom’s death. He was convicted of driving on a revoked license and criminal damage to property. Restitution of $675 was ordered as part of his sentence to 180 days in jail. With credit for 91 days in custody, Livingston has satisfied his jail term.
Women in McLean and DeWitt counties who knew Livingston and later asked for protective orders against him declined to speak publicly about their relationships, relying instead on statements they made in their orders of protection.
After his 2016 divorce, Livingston met a Peoria woman through a dating app. She received an order of protection in 2017 after she told a judge Livingston had stolen her property and refused to stop harassing her and her son.
In a recent interview with WGLT, Livingston’s former girlfriend in Peoria shared details of two letters and a phone call she received from him since hes been in the McLean County jail on murder charges.
She said the conversation included this exchange: “I said, 'You can’t kill people, Cyrus,' and he said, 'I didn’t kill her.'"
"At some point I think he said something about, 'I'm writing with no way to mail it because I'm waiting on [Livingston's brother] ... to get your address," the woman said. "To me, that's a very veiled threat. Just letting me know he's got people out there, they're gonna find out where I live. He's not stupid enough to say it like that. But he knew the point he was trying to make."