NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Three lives were lost in a murder-suicide Monday morning and now family friends say they’re torn on what to do next.
While some want to grieve the loss, they also want answers on what stood in the way of confiscating Shaun Varsos’ firearms.
Noah Savant has known Deborah Sisco and her daughter Marie for the last 25 years. Sisco served as president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 3808, where Savant says they were more like family.
He says Sisco had a passion for being there when her members needed her the most. Savant says it's a work ethic that both women shared.
“Whether it’s immediate family, extended family, or our union family, the loss of her and Marie is just unbearable,” Savant said.
Marie and her mother, Deborah, were found dead Monday morning in their Lebanon home. Marie was staying with her mother after she left her shared home with Shaun in Bellevue.
She had just filed for divorce at the beginning of March. A week after and she experienced what divorce papers called a “horrific” event.
Marie told Metro Nashville Police that on March 7, she tried to collect her belongings in Bellevue. According to an incident report, Shaun blocked the doorway and began yelling at her.
When Marie tried to walk away, Shaun allegedly grabbed her, picked her up, and placed her on the front porch. That’s when Shaun allegedly grabbed Marie by the throat and strangled her until she passed out.
Marie says she regained consciousness inside the home and saw Shaun taking her phone and keys. Moments later, Shaun allegedly took his pistol and pointed it at Marie. Marie says she was held at gunpoint for over an hour, as Shaun threatened to kill her, her family, and himself.
"Most difficult thing for me to understand is with all of that, why can’t something be done to at least remove the weapons from his house where he can’t get access to it,” Savant said.
Tennessee code gives officers the ability to confiscate weapons used by or threatened to be used by the abuser if the officer finds probable cause.
Marie pressed charges the day of the incident. When they tried to find him, they could not locate him. He was arrested days later on March 10 for aggravated assault and false imprisonment.
They released Shaun after posting a $30,000 bond, but a judge issued a temporary Order of Protection. If Shaun had been convicted of his charges, he would have had to forfeit all his firearms within 48 hours of the conviction. It’s important to note that while Shaun was accused of using a pistol in the March incident, Lebanon Police say he used a shotgun on Monday.
Marie’s attorney’s at Miller Upshaw Family Law offered the following statement:
“We are devastated that the Ex Parte Order of Protection that our client Marie Varsos obtained on March 8, 2021, which was in effect at the time of her death was not enough to keep her and her mother, Deborah Sisco from being the latest victims of domestic violence against women in Tennessee. Their deaths will serve as a grim reminder that an Order of Protection alone is not the solution to the problem of domestic violence, and we hope this tragedy will result in a renewed effort on the part of our lawmakers to address the systemic issues related to the protection of domestic assault victims and the prosecution of their abusers.”
Kimberly Page is a crisis counselor at the Family Safety Center. She says statistics show that when a victim leaves, they often find themselves in more danger than before.
“The earlier they reach out, the more opportunities they have to provide services,” Page said.
Page understands how fear keeps some from reaching out, but says her office can create a plan to guide you along the way. They have trained counselors on call every hour of the day to assist officers with domestic abuse victims.
“All of our services are free and confidential. So someone doesn’t have to be involved with the police to receive our services. If they are interested in our services, but not in prosecution, we still provide services,” Page said.
You may want to press charges or have someone willing to hear you out and that’s where the Family Safety Center can be a valuable resource.
You can contact the Family Safety Center at https://ofs.nashville.gov/family-safety-center/
Editor's Note: A clerical error on the MNPD incident report stated Marie Varsos didn't press charges against her husband nine days after the domestic incident. MNPD said it was an error and that Varsos did in fact press charges the same day as the incident. The article above has been corrected to reflect that.