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Marriage Counselor Killed by Husband Who Defied Multiple Restraining Orders, Say Cleveland Cops

CLEVELAND (CBS/AP) Tonya Hunter, a marriage counselor whose husband allegedly stabbed her to death, had filed two restraining orders against him in the past four months, according to court records.

Before the 42-year-old Hunter was found murdered Sunday, Maurice Lyons had threatened to kill her several times and punched her at least twice, police records show. On July 20, less than a week before her death, Hunter told police she had been receiving threatening phone calls from him for several days. According to the police report, Lyons told her: "I'm going to kill you! I'm going to punch you in the face!"

As a successful couples counselor, Hunter was credited with saving many marriages from breaking up. But in the days before she was killed, Hunter didn't know where her own husband was, and she was clearly afraid.

She asked the manager of her office building to change the locks on the doors. With her 4-year-old son in tow, Hunter made the rounds to her friends throughout the building, trying to spread the word.

"She told everyone that she had filed for a police restraining order," said Peter Wairegi, who works for an African-American lifestyle magazine on the fourth floor, "and that if we see him to call the police."

A few days later, Hunter was found in her garage, stabbed to death. Her son, who had been abandoned on a street corner, led police to her body. And her husband, whom she had met in an anger-management class she taught, was arrested.

Lyons, who's 38, was taken into custody Monday and is being held on pending charges of aggravated murder and domestic violence. He was released from prison last winter after serving three years for burglary and theft.

"I think she was trying to help him," Wairegi said of Hunter. "But by the time she realized this was a problem, I'm sure it was already too late."

According to the website for her counseling business, Success 1: Marriage and Family Counseling Services, Hunter was a licensed independent marriage and family therapist and chemical dependency counselor.

At her home on a tree-shaded suburban street, balloons and flowers were piled by the mailbox. A childhood friend, Joe Jones, said Hunter came from humble beginnings, paying her way through school, and building a life for herself.

"She had nobody helping her," he said.

In the wake of her death, Hunter's friends are frustrated that the restraining orders didn't help her. The greatest irony of all is that she knew better than anyone that she was in danger - and she wasn't able to help herself, Wairegi said.

"Other than going to police, I don't know what else she could have done," he said. "She probably saw it coming."

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  • Barry Leibowitz

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