FORT BEND COUNTY, TX (KTRK) --"It meant a great deal to us."
After more than two weeks of trial, and over two and a half years since Neil Kirkpatrick's daughter Stephanie was murdered, he says justice has now been served.
Late Thursday night a Fort Bend County jury sentenced Dan Politte to 85 years in prison for the murder of his wife, Stephanie Politte. Prosecutors say he shot her in the back of the head, likely while she slept, inside their Missouri City home. Stephanie was a beloved teacher who worked with autistic children.
Neil Kirkpatrick is Operations Commander of the Fort Bend County Sheriff Office's Reserve Division. He teaches courses for deputies including some on how to identify and deal with family violence. So knowing the signs and not seeing this coming has haunted him.
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"As a police officer though that's one of those things that has kept me up at night more than anything: Why didn't I see that? What did I miss?" he said.
He says only friends had witnessed Dan Politte's verbal abuse of Stephanie in the months before her murder. Family never saw it. That's part of the trick, Kirkpatrick says, offenders are so good at hiding their attacks whether verbal or physical.
"No victim should ever be hesitant to report a crime like that, especially a violent crime," he said.
The Fort Bend Women's Center says family violence is on the rise across Fort Bend County now for three years straight. Last year over 3,100 cases were reported to law enforcement county-wide.
Kirkpatrick hopes someone might see Stephanie's story and consider it motivation to speak up about family violence. Maybe it gives someone the courage to leave a potentially dangerous situation.
"I think Stephanie would be pleased to know that something may have come from all this that helped others," he said.
If even one life is saved her father says, that would mean so much.
The Fort Bend Women's Center operates a 24-hour hotline for women seeking help. You can reach them at (281) 342-4357 or toll-free at 1-(888)427-3650. They have many resources available to help those who need it, including an emergency shelter. You can also find information at fbwc.org.