It has taken Sarah Peters one year, but she’s speaking up. Her mission, she says, is to shine more light on the dark world of domestic violence.
Peters, 27, was 16 years old when she married Justin Calbick, who is currently being held in the Flathead County jail and accused of shooting his brother, Stacey Calbick, 38, and father, Donald Calbick, 60, on Jan. 27, 2010.
On the anniversary of the shootings, Peters and several of her friends stood outside the Flathead County Justice Center holding signs with messages about domestic violence prevention.
Peters said she would like to draw more attention to the matter so no one would have to go through what she did a year ago.
On Jan. 13, 2010, Calbick was arrested and charged with raping and assaulting Peters. Bond was originally set at $50,000 by the District Court, but the Justice Court released him on his own recognizance.
Peters said she went through all the recommended steps to protect herself, including filing a temporary restraining order and going to a safe-house.
But on Jan. 28, 2010, the Flathead County Sheriff’s Department received a 1 a.m. call reporting that Calbick was at his wife’s home armed with a rifle and had bound several people with duct tape.
Court records say Calbick bound the hands and feet of three adults, including Peters, for three hours. There were also three children at the residence. The hostages were able to convince Calbick to turn over the rifle and let his wife’s friend go on the premise that she would not contact authorities.
The woman’s husband called 911 when she got home and responding officers found Calbick sitting on the couch unarmed and arrested him without incident.
It was only later that she learned about Donald and Stacey, Peters said, and she believes they died trying to stop Calbick from going to her house. Donald, who Peters said was as close as a father, had said he would keep Calbick away from her, she said.
“Dad and Stacey died trying to save us and that wasn’t their job,” Peters said.
What spurred her to speak out, she said, were the Christmas Day murders of Jaimi Hurlburt, 35, and her daughter, Alyssa Burkett, 15. The suspect in the case, Tyler Miller, was Hurlburt’s ex-boyfriend and had allegedly made threats against her life in the days before the shooting.
Upon reading about the shootings in the newspaper, Peters said it was time to stop being a victim and start being an advocate. She contends that the system that is supposed to protect victims of domestic violence is not working.
“This did not have to happen,” Peters said as she held her sign in the chilly weather. “It was completely preventable and now it’s completely not-repairable.”
“They didn’t learn from Justin,” she added. “They need to start protecting us.”
But Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry said that while officers want to help to the best of their ability, there are limits to what authorities are allowed to do when it comes to locking someone up.
“We of course take domestic violence very seriously and will continue to,” Curry said. “We will continue to do our part within the system.”
Curry said authorities have made strides in the past couple of years to combat domestic violence, and the Sheriff’s Office deals with thousands of these cases every year.
“If you look at our numbers, we deal with these cases every day,” Curry said.
Domestic violence cases are often very complicated when authorities are dealing with them, he said, but they seem simpler when a tragedy occurs, such as the Christmas Day murders.
“In hindsight, they’re all black and white,” Curry said.
Peters said she would like to see changes within the justice system when it comes to domestic violence, which would include certain parts of state law.
Calbick appeared for a hearing in District Court on Jan. 28, where his attorney scheduled a Feb. 3 hearing at which Calbick intends on changing his not-guilty plea.
Peters, who attended the hearing, said she would keep speaking up.
“We teach people how to treat us by what is allowable,” Peters said. “If nobody talks, nothing’s going to change.”
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.