VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - One in three homicides in Hampton Roads is the result of domestic violence, according to the Samaritan House of Virginia Beach.
Over the past 20 years, more than 2,600 people have been killed in the Commonwealth due to domestic or intimate partner violence.
On Monday evening, as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, vigils will be held in Virginia Beach and in Hampton to honor the lives lost and raise awareness of this epidemic.
One in three women and one in four men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. One of those women was Claire Cucchiari Loring, an accomplished student at Old Dominion University.
Claire was a highly talented jazz singer and music major at ODU.
"She was a kind and compassionate young woman, but extremely independent and strong," said Claire's mother Kate.
At age 18, Claire met her boyfriend, with whom she would spend five years before breaking up with him on Thanksgiving Day in 2006. He didn't take it well, threatened suicide and pleaded and persuaded to get her back, then began stalking Claire, Kate said.
On the night of December 6, 2006, three weeks shy of her 23rd birthday, Claire went to her boyfriend's home to grab a few items. Her boyfriend then held her at gunpoint for 15 hours, repeatedly threatening to kill them both.
Claire got free in the morning after telling him she would stay with him, then went straight to the police.
"She was afraid of what he would do if she pressed charges," Kate said.
Claire and her mother went into hiding and got a protective order. Claire, overwhelmed, asked her mom that night if she could go let off some steam with her friends over dinner at the Olive Garden in Chesapeake. Kate was reluctant.
"Claire laughed and said, 'He would never think to look for me there,'" Kate said.
But somehow — police still aren't sure how — he found Claire.
"As they left, he accosted her in the parking lot," Kate said. "He approached her with a gun, told her friends to get away."
Claire tried to run but tripped. He then shot her three times in the stomach before shooting himself.
On the same day Claire took out a protective order against her partner, she was gone.
"The moment of the police telling me that she was gone... I don't even want to talk about it. It was the most horrible moment of my life," Kate said.
15 years later, Kate works to keep Claire's memory alive through speaking engagements and music scholarships in her honor.
"It has been important as a mother to focus not only on how she died, but how she lived and how wonderful she was," Kate said.
Kate will give the keynote address at the Day of Unity Domestic Violence Vigil at the Virginia Beach Town Center Monday night. The vigil will begin at 6:30 p.m. on the Fountain Plaza.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 and ask to be directed to resources in your neighborhood, or find a shelter and emergency help near you. For Hampton Roads residents, you can contact the Samaritan House or click here for a list of resources by region.