A Run for Her Life

"I'm very panicked. I'm very scared," says Kerry, speaking on the phone to a Dr. Phil producer. "I have to leave today. [Matt] runs the gamut of all of his emotions, from, 'If everything's taken from me, then I'll take my own life,' to 'Well, if Dr. Phil comes here, I'll just shoot at him.'"

"I know your mom said he has guns in the house," says the producer. She asks if they're loaded.


"I have no idea," says Kerry.

"OK, is he at the seminar today?" asks the producer.

Kerry confirms that he's away. "I feel like I have this little window, and I think I have to leave today," she says.

Dr. Phil advises, "If you're in an abusive situation and want out, you need to take the time to devise a safe, non-confrontational plan of escape. Kerry didn't have that time. Her husband, Matt, was away at a job fair, the house was empty, and Kerry saw this as her window of opportunity, the day she could finally get out. Ironically, it was also her birthday. Kerry quickly packed whatever she could, knowing that at any time her husband could return. We hired a private detective to keep tabs on Matt. If you need to make an escape in your life, you certainly don't need a private detective. You can use your local shelter or get police to get help."

Dr. Phil speaks with Kerry by phone. "Are you 100 percent convinced that leaving is what you need to do?"

"Yes," she says. "I'm absolutely 100 percent convinced that I have to leave this house now, today."

"Then you must leave with the mindset that you may never, ever walk through that door again," he tells her. He advises Kerry to take her drivers license, her social security card, her passport, her birth certificate and the children's birth certificates. "You have to assume that he is also likely to terrorize you legally " and verbally. He may accuse you of kidnapping the children, so you have to have the records, so you can go to the court and get a temporary restraining order, get a permanent injunction, and you want to be sure that you have the documentation that you need in order to do that effectively, OK?" Kerry agrees.


Meanwhile, Dr. Phil's private investigator monitors Kerry's husband at the job fair. "We've got a visual on the husband. We're going to hold in position until he comes out ... We've got a really good location here."

Dr. Phil advises Kerry over the phone. "Number one consideration is safety first. So we've been talking to the National Organization for Women, we've been talking with the shelter in your community there, and you want to reach out to all your community resources and use that shelter. So we're clear on that, right?" Kerry says yes.

Regarding Kerry's children, Dr. Phil says, "Listen, I'm not your legal advisor, but this ain't my first rodeo either, so let me tell you don't take those children across the state line."

"OK. And what about my 17-year-old?" she asks. "I've been raising him since he was 7 years old, and I love him."

"I would suggest that you sit down and write him a note," Dr. Phil advises. "What I don't want is for his father to come home, find the note, shred it up and he never gets to see it. So you might put it where he's likely to find it, but your husband is not."


Kerry says, "I think that he will be safe, but I think that his dad is going to act irrationally. I'm worried for the safety of my husband as well. I'm worried what he will do if he really thinks that it's all falling apart around him."

Dr. Phil advises her to contact the sheriff and explain her concerns. He adds, "Now, I understand that there are guns in the house." Kerry confirms. "You can advise the sheriff of that as well. You don't want to lead them over there not knowing that there are guns in the house and a potentially agitated man."

"I'm just really thankful that you're telling this story," says Kerry. "Even though I'm isolated, there have got to be other people who are going through this."

"We are telling an important story, but for right now our concern is for your life," says Dr. Phil. "And by the way, happy birthday. You're giving yourself an amazing gift."

"Thank you," she says.

Kerry scrambles to get herself and her children ready for their departure. When one of her children asks where they're going, Kerry tells her they will be taking a little trip. She writes her 17-year-old a note.


"I'm getting my kids safe. I'm getting them to a safe place," says Kerry. "I promised myself that the next time there was a break in the chaos, that I was going to leave. It's really hard to do it during the calm because you're just happy it's calm. But I know my husband's ready to blow."

As Kerry gets her plan underway, Dr. Phil's private investigator keeps her husband under surveillance. He watches as Matt walks to his car while on his cell phone.

Back at the house, as Kerry continues to grab her belongings, she says, "I've left with better plans and failed, but I have to get my kids safe now."

Meanwhile, the private investigator struggles to keep her husband in his sights. "I can see him in the mirror. He's a few vehicles behind me."

Kerry puts her kids in their car seats. She hugs the dog.

"If I can do this, anybody can," she says. Then, she walks out, gets in the car and drives away.

On the road, she thinks out loud. "I don't feel safe yet. I've got to keep everybody safe. Drive safe, feel safe. I've got to make sure I get enough money just to drive and be safe. I had to do it. I couldn't stay. My husband's last words to me today were, 'Stay out of trouble.' I think it's pretty telling."

In another part of town, the private investigator keeps her husband in view. "He's two behind us now, and we're going to try to get on it right now," he says. "I just would like us to get to the location so we're there a little bit ahead of our friend."

"My husband's going to be completely surprised that I've gone," Kerry explains. "And I've gotten out of the house. I don't want anybody to get hurt by this whole process of getting out. I don't want any of us to get hurt."

From the back seat of Kerry's car, her son echoes some of the phrases he's picked up around the house. "Mommy, I choke you when we get home," he says. "I going to choke you."

 

"You don't ever talk to mommies that way," says his mother. "Oh, no you don't."

 

Around this time, Kerry's husband pulls his car into their driveway.

Kerry reveals a bit of her strategy. "My husband knows where the women's shelter is, and I think it's the first place he beelines to to find me, and I don't want to be there."

Kerry calls the sheriff's office. "I've had to leave a domestic violence situation with my children, and I'm just concerned about my husband," she says. "I think it'll be a real big shock that I'm not there, and I'm really worried. And I do have a 17-year-old stepson who will be arriving home at about the same time."

Next, Kerry checks into a hotel. She makes another call, this time to the shelter. "My husband knows where the shelter is. He's made a note to point it out when we've driven around. It is a red Ford Bronco. It's like a '95 I think." After hanging up she reveals that the shelter said someone was parked in a truck outside of their facility already. Their description sounds to Kerry like that of her husband.

"The fact that my husband is already looking for me, me being gone only a couple hours, makes me frightened," she says.


Finally, Kerry calls her mom. "Hi, Mom," she says. "It's been a rough day, but I'm safe. We're OK. I'm going to be fine." 

Her mother replies, "I love you more than anything. I'm going to cry because I love you so much, but I'm so proud of you that you did this."

The mother and daughter exchange 'I love you's, and when they hang up, Kerry sobs.

"So many people today have told me that they're proud of me," Kerry says later. "I am proud of myself today. It is a good birthday."