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A family has been left to pick up the pieces after a woman's abusive ex murdered her and then shot himself — all in front of her young daughter.
Rachael Feazell, 34, was shot and killed at her home in Evansville, Indiana around 6:00 pm on Saturday night by her ex-boyfriend, Ryan Hopkins, 46, who police say then turned the gun on himself, according to the Evansville Courier-Press.
But before he did so, Feazell's surviving relatives told the paper, Hopkins told Feazell's 10-year-old daughter, Ashlyn, that he'd shoot her, too, if she called 911.
"To have your daughter murdered, and have your granddaughter witness the whole incident....It’s hell," Feazell’s mother, Kelly Griggs, told Evansville NBC affiliate WFIE.
Feazell's aunt, Connie Henry, told the station that Ashlyn wasn't even allowed to take her shoes when her grandmother came to retrieve her.
"She couldn’t wear her shoes home because they were covered in her mama’s blood," Henry explained.
Griggs was awarded full custody of Ashlyn years ago, according to the Courier-News, because Feazell struggled with addiction, but mother and daughter remained close and had plans to attend the Hadi Shrine Circus, which ended its annual Thanksgiving week run in the city on Sunday.
Feazell's family said that, before she was murdered, she was getting her life together as part of her desire to regain full custody of Ashlyn.
"She was really working hard on changing her lifestyle," Feazell's aunt, Henry, told the Courier-News. "In her mind, she was bound and damned determined to get her daughter back."
Hopkins' violent act on Saturday night ended those hopes. Her family is speaking out, they told WFIE, because they think the criminal justice system should have done more to protect her, and they want people to be aware of the signs of domestic violence.
Feazell's aunt, Henry, told the Courier-News that Feazell and Hopkins met at some point in 2019. When he visited her, she said, he was polite — but his violent, controlling behavior towards Feazell led her grandmother to dub him "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."
On April 26, 2020, Feazell called 911 from the home the two shared at the time, according to paper.
"Hurry, hurry, hurry ... he's already hit me," she told the 911 operator.
When police arrived, she told them that he had first threatened to shoot her, then shoved her and then pinned her with his forearm to her neck — and threatened to harm her more. She'd hidden under a bed to call 911.
Hopkins was arrested and charged with strangulation, domestic battery and intimidation. In June 2020, a circuit court judge issued a no-contact order with Feazell for Hopkins; her family says Hopkins simply ignored it.
Instead, he reportedly held Feazell hostage.
"He held her hostage in his basement," her aunt told the Courier-News. "He had a padlock on the outside of the house and cameras in the house connected to his phone."
In October 2020, Feazell escaped the home by crawling out a basement window, cutting herself. It does not appear that Hopkins was charged in that incident.
On April 14, 2021 — while Hopkins was still awaiting trial on the April 2020 charges — police responded to another domestic violence report from Feazell at a new residence. That time, she told police, Hopkins pointed a gun at her, punched her in the face, kicked her and stole her emotional support dog.
Feazell asked prosecutors at the time not to press charges in that incident; they did not pursue the case. On Oct. 29, 2021, prosecutors told the Courier-News that Feazell asked the court to drop the no-contact order from June 2020 and told prosecutors in writing that "she no longer wished to pursue charges at this time" related to the April 2020 attack.
The no-contact order expired on Nov. 1, 2021. Prosecutors dropped the charges against Hopkins from his April 2020 attack shortly thereafter.
Though Indiana law allows officers to confiscate weapons in domestic violences cases prior to a suspect's conviction, it's unclear if they ever confiscated the weapons with which Hopkins threatened Feazell. People convicted on domestic violence charges are not allowed to possess firearms under both Indiana and federal law, but, by dropping the charges against him, prosecutors made it impossible for police to enforce any ongoing restrictions on Hopkins' firearm possession.
On Nov. 27, Hopkins shot Feazell, threatened to shoot her 10-year-old daughter who witnessed the murder, and then killed himself.
Feazell's family was still making funeral arrangements as of Wednesday, but told WFIE that they would like people to wear purple to bring attention to domestic violence — and for the media to promote resources for domestic violence victims in their communities.
"[Victims] have to know about [those resources] to begin with, and they have to be brave enough to go there and say ‘How do I get away from the Ryans in the world?'" Feazell's aunt explained.
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