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Domestic Violence Survivor Warns 'Make A Safety Plan' At Vigil For Slain Mother

The candles flickered at a vigil at Bloomington's Franklin Park on Thursday night, just blocks from the McLean Street home where 30-year-old Nicole Elbert was killed—allegedly by her husband— as she tried to leave last week. She had planned to go to Neville House, a local domestic violence shelter.

Her mother Missy Pendley regrets not acting sooner.

"I wish I called the cops when I told her I wanted to. I wish I would have called. It probably would have saved her life," she said.

Trisha Varner, a domestic violence victim, said she was nearly killed and her son suffered brain damage from an abuser she managed to escape. Varner said her son had several brain surgeries but now he is a happy and healthy 10-year-old.

"I wish I called the cops when I told her I wanted to. I wish I would have called. It probably would have saved her life."

"Make out a safety plan in your mind and consider an appropriate time to leave, when he's gone or at 3 a.m.," she advised. "Don't worry about items, don't worry about nothing. Possessions don't matter."

Deborah White, executive director of Mid-Central Community Action which operates the Neville House domestic violence shelter, said "one life lost is too many." She vowed to honor Elbert by preventing other violence.

"She may be silenced, but we will find a way to continue to have her in our hearts and she'll inspire us to continue the work we do at Countering Domestic Violence," declared White.

Pastor Aaron Stine of New Beginnings Church of God said Elbert's death has already had a communitywide impact with calls to Path Crisis' 2-1-1 helpline and the local Countering Domestic Violence hotline up dramatically since her death.

He was impressed that nearly 50 people showed up on a cold, blustery night to honor Elbert's memory and to raise awareness about domestic violence.

"There is so much fear in these kinds of situations, we have to let people know we are there to help," he said.

During his brief remarks, Stine told those gathered, "We stand together in courage. We stand together in strength that we don't have when we stand alone."

He vowed to continue to support any efforts to promote awareness.

"You can't just do this one time. I think you just have to keep going at it," he added.

A group of social justice organizations is meeting from noon-1 p.m. Friday at the Holiday Inn across from the airport in Bloomington to raise awareness about rape and violence against women.

The family is accepting contributions to the Nicole Stimler Memorial Fund. Donations can be made at any Busey Bank location. There will also be a celebration of life for Nicole Elbert from 1-5 p.m. Saturday at the American Legion Hall in Farmer City.

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Colleen has spent most of her adult life working the streets and beats of Bloomington-Normal for WJBC-AM where she won numerous reporting awards for hard news, feature writing, and breaking news coverage.
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