Teen shoots serial abuser, saves mom from strangulation

Jose Luis Magana

A Missouri man is lucky to be alive after he was shot in the head while allegedly strangling a woman inside her home this week. Stephen Bailey, Jr. of Greene County, Missouri is well known to local law enforcement, having at least 15 reported domestic assaults tied to him since 2006. In fact, earlier this year Bailey is believed by authorities to have set fire to a woman’s home in Greene County, but this week Bailey apparently showed up once again at the residence and this time, he managed to make his way inside.

His goal wasn’t burning down the house, but assaulting the woman inside. Bailey began choking and strangling her in front of her teenage son, who pleaded with him to stop. When Bailey reportedly refused to release his grip on the woman, the teen grabbed a shotgun and aimed it at the man.

Deputy Paige Rippee said the teenage boy has not been arrested or charged. The teenager told investigators during the assault that Bailey told him, “You’re next, boy.”

“What he was doing was acting in self-defense for a victim,” said Deputy Rippee. “He saw a crime occurring, jumped into action, and did what he had to do to save the victim.”

The boy told deputies he fired the shotgun after begging Bailey to stop choking his mother.

“He (Bailey) has a history of dealing with law enforcement, specifically with domestic assault,” said Deputy Rippee.

That’s putting it mildly. He’s had nearly one domestic violence arrest every year for the past 15 years. Why has he been able to repeatedly escape consequences for his abuse? A punch in the face or hands wrapped around a throat shouldn’t result in a series of slaps on the wrist, but it looks like that’s basically been the extent of Bailey’s punishment.

I can only hope there are no more lucky breaks in his dealings with the criminal justice system. In order to convict him at trial and avoid another plea deal, however, the woman and her son are probably both going to have to testify. I know it would be difficult to relive those terrifying moments on the witness stand, but if they can find the strength and courage to provide their testimony justice might actually be done here.

As for the teenager, it doesn’t sound like police think he did anything wrong. And thankfully Missouri doesn’t have a firearm storage law that prohibits minors from being able to access a firearm with the consent of their parent; a provision that the gun control lobby wants to enact across the country. While defensive gun uses involving juveniles aren’t as commonplace as they are among adults, it does happen on occasion, and sadly domestic violence is often the reason for the defensive gun use, as in this case from North Carolina in 2018.

The Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office said on its Facebook page 46-year-old Steven Kelley was assaulting a woman Aug. 8 at a home in Forest City where they lived with her three children.

Investigators said that during the assault, Kelley threatened to cut the woman’s throat and kill everyone in the house. The sheriff’s office said the woman’s 12-year-old son got a gun and handed it to his 15-year-old sister, who shot Kelley in the chest.

Prosecutors called it a justifiable shooting and no charges were filed. That’s not always the case, however. In 2016, a 15-year old shot in Spotsylvania County, Virginia shot and killed John Conroy, Jr. as he was attacking the boy’s mom in their home. The local prosecutor charged the teen as an adult with second-degree murder, and he went trial in 2017. A jury ended up acquitting Bailey Doggett of all charges, rejecting the arguments by prosecutors that since Conroy wasn’t armed while he was attacking Doggett’s mother the shooting was a disproportionate use of force.

In this most recent case in Missouri it sounds like police have already determined the shooting to be justified, so it’s likely that prosecutors will decide the same. It’s still a sad situation, and one that probably wouldn’t have happened if the court system had ever delivered a stiff sentence to Bailey at some point between 2006 and now. But we can’t always rely that justice will be done, or that abusers will ever learn their lesson. Being able to protect yourself or your loved ones from a domestic violence situation not only involves the right of self-defense, but the ability to escape the abusive situation and put yourself in a safer place. If you or anyone you know is in need of help, the National Domestic Violence hotline is 1-800-799-7233, and you can visit TheHotline.org for resources and guidance on a confidential basis.