Jurors hear testimony from domestic violence expert

BEDFORD – Caryn Burton, a training coordinator and advocate with the Indiana Coalition against Domestic Violence, testified this morning in the murder trial of Phillip “Butch” Deckard in Lawrence County Superior Court II.

Phillip “Butch” Deckard

Judge John Plummer III is presiding.

You can view the trial via live-stream at this link.

Deckard, 58, is accused of shooting and killing his girlfriend Charlene Silvers after a domestic dispute on Wednesday, August 26, 2020, at the home the couple shared at 2738 Maul Ridge Road.

Officials say Deckard and Silvers had a 13-year relationship. Silvers died from her injuries on Thursday, August 27, 2020, at 7:24 p.m.

Charlene Silvers

Lawrence County Prosecutor Sam Arp and Chief Deputy Prosecutor Allison Chopra are presenting the case for the state. Martinsville Attorney John Boren and Tonisha Jarrett are defending Deckard.

Burton testified that fear, lack of safe options, and the inability to survive economically prevent many survivors/victims from leaving abusive relationships.  Threats of harm, including death to the victim and/or children, keep many battered women/men trapped in abusive situations.  The most dangerous time for a victim is when he/she attempts to leave the relationship, or when the abuser discovers that he/she has made plans to leave. 

She testified that survivors are blamed for the problems in the relationship.

“They will try to fix everything,” Burton added. “They believe and are shamed to believe that the problems are all their fault.”

Another myth believed is that the victim and the perpetrator hate each other.

“They love each other,” she added. “The survivors want to fix the relationship and won’t call the police. They don’t want their abuser or partner in trouble.”

Attorney Boren asked Burton if domestic violence is a diagnosable condition and she replied no.

He also asked if it was important to know all the information of a relationship to accurately access a domestic situation and Burton replied yes.

Burton also testified on the topic of “mutual combat”. Mutual combat occurs when both parties are equally at fault in a fight that turns physical.

Attorney Boran then asked if drugs would cause issues in a relationship. Burton testified drugs and alcohol would exacerbate the “reality” of the relationship.

Next to testify was Charlene Silvers’ younger sister Annette Sturgeon who is also the co-owner of the Livingroom Center. Charlene worked with her sister.

“We were best friends,” she said. “She was my go to person.”

She testified that Deckard would take Silvers to the Livingroom Center to work, where she cleaned the business.

“Sometimes he would go to his moms,” she said. “But most of the time he would sit in the parking lot in his car with the dog for 6 to 8 hours. If he was not in the parking lot, he would call her 15 to 20 times a day.”

The defense asked Sturgeon if she knew her sister was hospitalized on August 9, 2020, for a drug overdose.

She said she did know, “but it was just hearsay.”

Next to testify was Heather Watterson, Charlene’s daughter.

She testified that in July 2020, she went to the trailer on Maul Ridge Road and helped her mother move out.

She said, “Butch was standing on the porch with a shotgun.”

Next to testify was Shannon Johnson, Charlene’s daughter.

She testified that Deckard always kept a gun by the door near his recliner. She also testified to witnessing arguments between Deckard and Silvers.

Johnson sometimes worked with her mother and stated “Butch would call her often.”

During one of those arguments in June or July, Silvers called her daughter to come and get her. During that phone conversation, Johnson heard Deckard say he was going to shoot Silvers.

“Then they both said everything would be okay until I got there,” Johnson added.

When she went to pick up Silvers, she witnessed Deckard place Silver’s antique chair on a burn pile in the front yard.

“He was then shooting up the inside of the trailer,” she added.

On August 26, 2020, while Johnson was at work she received 8 missed calls from her mother. After finished her work day, she attempted to contact Silvers and got no response. She then received a call from the hospital saying her mother had been shot.

She rushed to the hospital. She testified there were cops everywhere.

“I got to talk to my mom and she was talking. I thought she would be okay,” she added. “Then I went with her to Indianapolis and was with her when she passed.”

Johnson then testified that her mother did overdose on August 9, 2020, and had asked her for Suboxone in the past.

“I met them at the Mark III Motel. Mom looked bad and wasn’t doing very good,” said Johnson.

Deckard then transported Silvers to the hospital for treatment. Johnson followed in her vehicle.

The jury then broke for lunch and will convene at 1 p.m.