A Family's Heartbreak

"My sister's boyfriend murdered her," Jennifer says. "The abuse was verbal, and then a push, and then a shove. It progressively got worse and worse."

"She finally left him," says her mom, Elena.

"She went through a program where they put her up in a motel," Jennifer recalls tearfully. "Katherine told me that Eric had found her. I told her, ‘We'll move your hotel room first thing in the morning.' So, the next morning, I pull into the hotel, and there are cops everywhere. And I'm like, ‘Where's my sister? Where's my sister?' And they said, ‘Who's your sister?' and I said, ‘Katherine.' ‘What room is she in?' And I point, and as I point, they asked, ‘The one with the broken window?'"

"I just straight out ask him, ‘Where is my daughter, Katherine?' And he said she was dead," Elena says, crying. "Just ‘She's dead.' It was so unbelievable."

Police say 38-year-old Erick Vogel may have used a large knife to shatter Katherine's motel room window. Once inside, investigators say he stabbed the 26-year-old mother to death in front of her two small children. He is now in prison, awaiting trial.

[AD]"It's hard to think that the last image that these small children have of their mother is what he did to her," Jennifer says.

"I want to hurt him. I think as long as he's alive, I'm not going to have closure," Elena says.

"I feel very guilty," Jennifer says, crying. "I feel like I made her leave. I feel like I made her too strong, and he didn't like that."

"I just wish I had more control over saving Katherine's life," Elena says.

Dr. Phil tells Elena and Jennifer that he's bothered by the fact that they are blaming themselves for Katherine's death.

"I do blame myself," Elena says. "I feel like I should've just snatched her up and took her away. I talked to her and tried to give her the signs and the red flags, and I know she's seen them. And she loved him. She wanted to have this relationship with him. She knew that the words that were coming out of his mouth, that ‘I'll never hurt you,' she wanted to believe that. And I just wanted to pull her away."

"You feel like you got her too strong. You got her to stand up and create this separation assault, essentially," Dr. Phil says, referring to attacks on women by their partners after they leave. 

Jennifer nods. "I did. I think I showed her what he was doing, and I showed her that she could live a happy life, and he didn't like that," she says.

Dr. Phil makes it clear that no one could've predicted what was going to happen, and they cannot blame themselves. "You did so many things right, here. You believed her, you loved her, you supported her, you reached out to her, you gave her so much wisdom and so much insight," he tells them. "I see the pain in your eyes. I know you would've traded places with her in a second to give her a second chance, true?" Dr. Phil asks Elena.

Elena nods. "Very true," she says.

"But what you can do now is you can use this tragedy to save other people, and Katherine is making a difference now. And God bless you for doing that," he says.

[AD]When it comes to leaving an abusive relationship, there are steps to take to keep yourself safe. Read the Exit Action Plan.


If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, please reach out for help. Call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE (7233). Help is available to callers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. For more information and local resources, go to the National Network to End Domestic Violence: NNEDV.org.