Armed And Dangerous

As A Police Officer, She Was Trained To Deal With Domestic Abuse

Tori-Lynn Heaton is a police officer in Cranston, Rhode Island. But her badge and gun give her little protection from the man she fears. That man is her husband, Joe Fillion, a fellow police officer.

At 23, Tori was having the time of her life. She had just been voted Miss Rhode Island. When she lost in the Miss America contest, she was happy to go back to work on the force.

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Three years later, in 1997, she started dating Joe Fillion, a divorced father of two. One year later, they were married.

But Tori says she should have seen trouble coming. Three months before their wedding, Tori says Joe lost his temper and for the first time physically hurt her.

According to Tori, the next year was one attack after another. "Very physical, rough grabbing, pulling, yanking by the hair - a lot of pulling of the hair," says Tori. "I married this. It was a nightmare,"

Ironically, as a police officer, Tori had been trained to recognize and deal with abusive situations. But she was reluctant to file a report against her husband because, she says, "You don't rat on a cop."

But after eight months of marriage, Tori filled out an affidavit and got a restraining order against Joe. "My perception is that it was building towards - I'd be dead," she says. "I just made up my mind, 'I have - I can't live like this anymore. And I'm not going to.'"

Once police read the details, Joe Fillion was arrested and charged with domestic assault.

Four months later, Joe made a surprise visit to Tori's home and found her having a drink with former boyfriend Stephen Russo. Tori says her husband went into a rage and attacked both her and Stephen.

But Joe refutes her account of that day and says he was never abusive to his wife. In fact, he says she was abusive to him.

As for the attack on Stephen Russo, Joe says: "People seem to have overlooked a very important factor in the entire matter. I was injured and treated."

Joe ended up with a scratch on his ear. Stephen Russo ended up in the hospital with a broken jaw.

Despite his denials, Joe was charged with 13 counts for allegedly abusing his wife and for the attack on Russo. "I protested my innocence from the onset and until this day I'm going to protest my innocence," says Joe.

A jury convicted Joe on six of the counts, including the assault on Russo. He was sentenced to three years in prison. After serving 18 months, he was released.

For Tori, the verdict was a bittersweet victory. "I did love this man at one point," she says. "Knowing that he's going to jail doesn't bring me joy. It gave me confirmation and a sense of peace. Knowing that I'm going to be able to sleep in my own bed tonight. And I will not have one single fear. Justice was done."

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