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Pasco domestic violence survivor recounts harrowing tale of shooting

NEW PORT RICHEY - It has been more than six excruciating years since Sept. 6, 2006. Margo Brandon remembers everything as though it were only a few hours ago. "Everything moved in slow motion," Brandon told a crowd gathered outside the Pasco County Sheriff's Office administration building in New Port Richey. "I remember the sound of the click, the sliding of the metal on the barrel as the bullet entered the chamber. The burn in my right arm, my right side and the bullet traveling to its resting place on my left side." Brandon shared her story of domestic violence as about 50 people, including members of the Pasco sheriff's office and the Salvation Army, gathered for a domestic violence awareness vigil Tuesday night.
According to the sheriff's office, there were 3,300 cases of domestic violence reported in Pasco County in 2011. That was a 5.8 percent decline from 2010. Still, according to Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco, one case is too many. "There's different things out there and there are statistics, some of them are a little older, but when you hear them, it makes you think about how horrible domestic violence is," Nocco said. "And how it spreads more than what we traditionally think …" According to a 2001 study cited by Nocco, about 1 in 5 female high school students reported being physically or sexually abused by someone they had dated. A fact sheet from the National Network to End Domestic Violence says 1 in 4 women are beaten or raped by a partner during adulthood. Nationally, 15.5 million children are exposed to domestic violence each year. In Florida, 113,378 domestic violence crimes were reported in 2010, leading to 67,810 arrests. "This is the time when we realize that we have a long way to go," Lynn Needs, director of the Salvation Army's Domestic Violence Program, said Tuesday night. "This community is affected by domestic violence every day. Our shelter alone services 300 to 400 different women and children a year. "It would be wonderful to not have to have that service." On that September night in 2006, Brandon's former husband, Robert Peter Christie, was intoxicated before shooting his then-wife. He drank Scotch, had taken Xanax and Vicodin, and an argument over the phone with Brandon's son made him "snap," she said. Brandon said Christie went into the bedroom to retrieve his gun. He had planned to leave their Hudson home to shoot her son, she said. When he left the room, Brandon said she hid his car keys. That sent him into a rage, and she fled into the guest bedroom to escape his anger, she said. He followed her into that room, closed the door behind him, pointed the gun at Brandon and demanded the car keys. That's when she was shot. "My life changed forever at the hands of my husband," Brandon said. The bullet went through her ribs on her right side, piercing her lung, intestine and liver. The wound from the man she married in 1998 left her in an intensive care unit for 30 days. On August 20, 2007, Christie was sentenced to nine years in prison for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. "His domestic violence with me stopped on that day," Brandon said. "It has not been an easy journey, and yes, I found light at the end of the tunnel." Brandon said she began volunteering with the Pasco sheriff's office in 2008 and didn't begin speaking publicly about her experience until 2011. "I pour my heart into my speeches," she said. "But the most important thing is if I can save one life — one woman figures out, 'Hey, I've got a problem; I need to get out' — if I save one life, I've done exactly what I was supposed to do. "I should've died, but didn't."

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