Gavel

At the heart of the outcry to free a Greenwood woman jailed after pleading guilty to fatally stabbing a man is a petition started by someone who had never met the woman.

Tiffany Jenae Carroll, 32, was originally arrested and charged with murder following the 2017 death of 27-year-old William Jamaal Johnson, her then-boyfriend. Carroll pleaded guilty in December to voluntary manslaughter in connection with the case and was given a 15-year prison sentence.

“I saw the post about her sentencing and the story kinda touched me,” Georgia resident Kiasia Willis said. “I felt really bad for her and her children.”

Willis, who had read news stories about Carroll’s case but had no connection to Carroll or her family, decried the sentencing on social media before deciding to start a petition to free Carroll.

“I don’t know her family, I don’t know her, but hopefully if more eyes get on this issue, the more seriously people will take it,” Willis said.

As of Friday, the Change.org petition titled “Reunite mother sentenced to 15 years in abuser’s death with her children” has garnered 30,519 signatures. Willis said she’s hoping to keep pushing until there are 100,000 signatures or more.

The caseOn Sept. 18, 2017, Greenwood police were called out to an Independence Way residence to investigate a stabbing. On the front porch, officers saw several puddles of blood and made their way in through the unlocked front door, finding Johnson lying on the floor with a large amount of blood around him. Carroll was beside him, trying to put pressure on his right arm and telling officers she didn’t know who had cut him.

Officers found puncture wounds and gashes on Johnson’s body, and Carroll told officers she had left and gone to a store, and when she came back she found him bleeding. Later, while officers were clearing the residence, an officer would see her crouch in the kitchen and reach behind the stove — where officers reported later finding a stashed kitchen knife with what appeared to be smeared blood on it.

Carroll would go on to tell officers she and Johnson had been in an argument that became physical when she pushed and hit him, then he punched her. In the incident report, she told officers she was able to leave the room, went to the kitchen, got a knife and attacked Johnson before throwing the knife behind the stove.

The apartment had two exits and entries, the report noted.

“Instead of getting the knife and returning to (Johnson), (Carroll) had ample opportunity to exit through the back door, which she chose not to do,” the report said.

Documents provided by the 8th Circuit Solicitor’s Office showed multiple previous cases where law enforcement was called out to investigate arguments and conflicts between the two of them.

When Carroll pleaded to the voluntary manslaughter charge, she pleaded guilty but mentally ill — court documents filed on her behalf argued that a history of abuse had caused trauma that left her unable to exhibit proper decision-making skills. After serving a quarter of her 15-year sentence, Carroll will be eligible for parole.

Getting helpFor anyone dealing with an abusive relationship, the first step to getting help is calling a local shelter or law enforcement, said Alice Hodges, executive director at Meg’s House. Calling an organization that specializes in helping survivors of abuse can put someone experiencing it on the right track to get out of that situation.

Hodges said she understands that people are often hesitant to call 911 when experiencing abuse, so she said as an alternative they should call a local counseling service, or speak to officials at their church if they attend one.

“We have pastors in our community who are very compassionate about this particular issue,” Hodges said. “We can connect them with resources. It just all depends on the particular needs of the person in that relationship.”

People often want to confide in family and friends with issues like these, but Hodges said it’s important to speak with professionals who have had training relevant to abuse because they can assess the risk for an abusive relationship turning lethal.

Above all, she said, the key is getting out from under abuse safely. That means not making phone calls for help while the perpetrator of the abuse is around; keeping the abuser from interfering.

“It’s just so sad that we have these systems for telling the victims what to do, instead of holding abusers accountable,” Hodges said. “As a community, we need to let people know that this kind of behavior is unacceptable. It has to be a community effort because Meg’s House can’t do it alone. Law enforcement can’t do it alone. We need to stop being so reactive and pick up the phone and volunteer with these social service organizations.”

Meg’s House can be reached at 888-847-3915 or at help@megshouse.org. People wanting to volunteer with Meg’s House can also reach out to learn about volunteer opportunities.

If someone is in immediate danger, call 911.

Contact staff writer Damian Dominguez at 864-634-7548 or follow on Twitter @IJDDOMINGUEZ.