'It was either him or her': Houston widow suffered from husband's abuse for decades, son tells ABC13

ONLY ON ABC13: Janet Alexander's arrest was noted for her attempt to set herself on fire when police closed in.

Jessica Willey Image
Tuesday, September 27, 2022
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Janet Alexander's son tells ABC13 about the decades of abuse his mom suffered at the hands of his dad. The widow was acquitted of killing her husband.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The son of a woman found not guilty of killing her husband last week has a message for domestic violence victims.

Janet Alexander, 72, was acquitted of murder in the death of her husband, Lionel Alexander. She claimed self-defense after suffering decades of abuse. Her son, Marlin Alexander, testified on her behalf.

"I remember growing up as a child, I watched him putting guns to her head, threatening to kill her if she didn't do certain things. He wanted her to do everything, was all controlling," Marlin Alexander told ABC13. "It just seemed like it was the norm."

In April 2018, Marlin said his mother had to make a choice. His mother told police she wrestled a knife away from her husband and stabbed him to death. An autopsy found a staggering 89 stab wounds.

"My mom's the sweetest person and she did what she had to do to protect herself," he said. "She had no choice. It was either him or her."

Janet Alexander was charged with murder, and four years later, she stood trial. A jury heard extensive testimony about the violent relationship, including a 2015 incident during which Lionel Alexander was shot.

Marlin Alexander said it happened after his father stabbed his mother and handed her a gun. He maintained that she was the victim and questioned why the Harris County District Attorney's Office prosecuted her in the first place.

"It should have never been picked up," he said.

In a statement to ABC13, the district attorney's office said, "We felt there was enough conflicting evidence about what occurred between these two people that it was appropriate to present the case to a jury to decide if a crime had occurred. We respect its decision."

According to the Harris County Sheriff's Office, 35% of homicides are related to domestic violence. Marlin Alexander, who said he was also physically abused by his father, knows others are suffering and hopes at least one victim is able to act on his message.

"Get counseling. There's a lot of help out there and if there's anyway, find a way out of it. Get out," he said.

If you need help getting out of a domestic violence situation, call the Houston Area Women's Center 24/7 hotline at 713-528-2121 or call AVDA at 713-224-9911. You can also click here to chat with an advocate online. If you are deaf or hard of hearing and need help, call 713-528-3625.

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