Domestic violence alarm alerted police

April 13, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - West Virginia State Police went to Joy Yurish's Martinsburg home Monday - as her husband allegedly tried to kill her - because she pressed the button on a necklace-style alarm.

The alarm - about the size of a business card - sent an emergency message to ADT Security Services, which contacted Berkeley County's 911 center.

As Michael Yurish threatened to kill his wife, a 911 dispatcher called Joy Yurish and discreetly asked her yes-or-no questions to direct police to her.


At 2:48 a.m., two troopers shot Michael Yurish, killing him, when he ignored their commands to stop moving at his wife with a large knife, authorities said.

Shenandoah Women's Center in Martinsburg gave Joy Yurish the alarm through ADT's AWARE (Abused Women's Active Response Emergency) program.

Heather Moses, a Berkeley County outreach worker for the center, said Tuesday this was the first time she knew of a local woman using the alarm to call for help.

The AWARE program started in Berkeley County in 1998. Moses has overseen it since 2000.

Before Monday, the ADT panic alarm had saved the lives of at least 26 women since its inception in the United States in 1992, company spokeswoman Ann Lindstrom said.

Moses said Berkeley County has given out about 30 AWARE security systems.

"They are for the higher-risk domestic (violence) victims," she said.

In November 2004, Michael Yurish allegedly tried to strangle his wife with an extension cord, punched her and threatened to kill her, court records say.

Two weeks later, Joy Yurish obtained a protection order against him, according to court records. Michael Yurish was free on bond.

The AWARE alarm system is electronic and works inside and outside the user's home. Panic calls that reach ADT are sent to local 911 dispatchers as priority calls.

ADT monitors the system every day. If a test fails, ADT calls the police. The arrival of police officers has startled some people with alarm pendants, Moses said.

She said the Shenandoah Women's Center also gives victims cell phones that are programmed to connect to 911 from anywhere - if they don't already have cell phones.

ADT, which is based in Boca Raton, Fla., provides free emergency security alarms and systems, but lets local domestic abuse workers, prosecutors and police determine who gets them.

Lindstrom said the AWARE program started in Canada in 1990. In 1992, a U.S. pilot program started in Florida.

Now, AWARE alarms are in about 170 North American cities, counties and other municipalities.

Frederick, Md., is the only other Tri-State municipality using the program, according to the company.

Lindstrom said there has been talk about expanding AWARE into Jefferson and Morgan counties in West Virginia.

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