Break the Cycle: 22-year-old woman’s legacy inspires family, advocates to combat domestic abuse

Domestic Violence Awareness

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. 10 On Your Side is committed to “Break the Cycle” of domestic violence. Every Wednesday in October 2020 we will tell the stories of domestic violence survivors and victims.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — April Lee Logan’s bubbly personality lit up her mother’s world like sunshine.

“She was just so full of life,” Robin Logan said of her daughter.

The sun set forever on Robin Logan’s world on Aug. 22, the day her daughter died.

Police said 22-year-old April Lee Logan was shot and killed during a domestic incident at an apartment in the 1000 block of Blackwater Way in Newport News this year. Her ex-boyfriend, 25-year-old Matthew Coglio, was charged with second-degree murder in connection with her death.

Coglio told police the shooting was an accident. He said the couple was watching firearm safety videos when the gun went off, but neighbors reported hearing an argument inside the apartment before the shooting, according to a search warrant filed by the Newport News Police Department.

April Lee Logan had plans to leave the toxic relationship shortly before she died, her mother said. She’d received a promotion at her job at Target and put down a security deposit on a new apartment. She was excited to move away from Coglio and move on with her life.

“She had plans,” Robin Logan said. “We had gotten her all new things. We were supposed to buy her bed that weekend, and she was just so excited to be starting her promotion.”

Robin Logan said her daughter and Coglio began dating when they were teenagers. The mother noticed red flags early on in the relationship, like constant arguing and social isolation. The couple was dating for one year in 2015 when Robin Logan decided to move the family to North Carolina in an effort to put distance between her daughter and Coglio. But, the distance wasn’t enough to break the cycle.

“It had been just a nightmare. I tried to keep them apart. Nothing was working,” Robin Logan said. “She kept going back to him … He totally lulled her into a sense of security, that it was them against the world.”

Tensions escalated in 2018 when April told the NNPD that Coglio attacked her. He was charged with domestic assault. The case was nolle prossed — meaning the charge wasn’t prosecuted, but could be brought back against Coglio — and April Lee Logan received a two-year protective order. It expired less than a week before she died, according to court records.

Stories like April Lee Logan’s inspire advocates like Jonathan Yglesias. He works at the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance on policies aimed at protecting survivors from becoming victims.

Earlier this month, 10 On Your Side reported that data provided by the Virginia Department of Health shows that domestic violence homicides across the state rose between 2012 and 2017. VDH is working to enter killings that happened between 2018 and 2020 into the National Violent Death Reporting System database, but Yglesias said that domestic violence homicides have been increasing slightly in recent years.

“I expect that where we are with some of the laws that just passed in the 2020 [Virginia] General Assembly session that we’re going to be, I would hope that we’re going to see a reduction in those numbers moving forward,” Yglesias said of fatal domestic violence incidents.

Yglesias said that 2020 has been a challenging year for domestic violence survivors and advocates. Communities in Virginia are reporting dramatic rises in domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic, and advocates are working to meet the complex needs of survivors — often at a distance.

Still, prevention progress has been made. The 2020 Virginia General Assembly established a new state fund to support sexual and domestic violence prevention in local communities, which Yglesias believes is an important step toward finding long-term solutions to violence. He hopes the fund will support prevention programs that teach communities about healthy relationships, consent, and social-emotional developmental learning.

Another important step was taken by Virginia legislators this year when they passed an amendment to a 2016 law, which made it illegal for people under a family abuse protective order to own a gun. The amendment expanded the law to include gun prohibitions on other types of protective orders, like stalking. It also fixed an issue of implementation in local courts by establishing uniform procedures for requiring people with protective orders against them to turn in their guns and report it to court authorities, Yglesias said.

“So now this ban on firearms is applied across the board to every protective order you could possibly receive in Virginia. Any permanent protective order,” Yglesias said. “It seems like a very simple thing, but it is a huge procedural accomplishment that I think will really help with enforcement of these laws.”

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner has also been working to protect dating abuse survivors with a law that closes the “boyfriend loophole.” The law prohibits people convicted of dating violence from owning guns. Warner hopes it will offer protection to survivors of abuse in relationships that aren’t considered domestic by law, like those where a couple doesn’t live together or share children.

“What happens if it wasn’t a spouse, but it was simply a boyfriend? So, what we’ve taken are some of the ideas that Virginia had and said if that boyfriend had been convicted of stalking or dating violence, that would add a category as well that would be precluded from having a firearm,” Warner said.

Every survivor is unique, and a resource or law that works for one person may not save another. April Lee Logan’s mother offers one piece of advice for anyone who loves someone affected by domestic violence: Don’t give up on them.

“Just be there,” she said. “Even if they hate you for it, because you’d rather them hate you and be alive.”

April’s death was the first domestic homicide since the NNPD domestic violence team was established.

“We started this program in April. Then on [Aug. 22], we lost April. So, that has impacted our team significantly because every day when we reach out to victims to give them hope. We are hoping to prevent the abuse from escalating. Going forward, we want to make sure that we can do whatever we can to provide the support that is needed. To ensure that victims become survivors,” said Cheryl Chavers, NNPD domestic violence team specialist.

April’s family has now partnered with the team to advocate against abuse.

“I hope that April’s story will let young women know that they don’t need to be silent,” said Taylor Lawson, April’s cousin. “So often, they feel like their voices will be disregarded or kind of shut down but I hope that they see how we are grieving. They know the outcome of domestic violence, that will help them speak out and reach out for help.”

Robin Logan requested an April Lee Logan memorial fund be set up in her honor, through the Newport News Police Foundation.

“It’s a volatile time. Had I known about the department a few months ago, maybe I would have reached out to Neisha or Cheryl [on the domestic violence team] and said ‘Hey can you check on my daughter?’ I had no idea the department existed. I really want the community to know that this department is there. They are there to help,” said Robin Logan.

“This department has really done good. I want them to succeed and continue to do the work. So, that we can save people that need it,” she added.

If you believe you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence or child abuse, 10 On Your Side has compiled a list of local and national resources to help you.

For the full list of resources, CLICK HERE.

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