Vanessa Danielson’s family did everything they could to persuade her to leave her boyfriend.
As CBS Minnesota reports, Danielson’s mother, Wendy Stepanchak, had tried to get her daughter to move in with her, but Danielson refused.GoFundMe
Natalie Lipscomb, Danielson’s sister, listened as her sister described her violent relationship with boyfriend Wyndale Fayson. But it was clear that Danielson wasn’t ready to leave. Lipscomb told CBS Minnesota that her sister didn’t hide the fact that Fayson beat her:
“She’d have a bruise on her face and say, ‘Can you see it?'”
Yet Danielson wouldn’t leave Fayson. Lipscomb told CBS Minnesota:
“She couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Knowing that Danielson was afraid to call the police, her mother tried to get someone to intercede. Stepanchak contacted Adult Protective Services, but got nothing more than a letter, explaining there was nothing they could do. Stepanchak told CBS Minnesota:
“I ripped [the letter] up and threw it away. I said I’ve done everything I can.”
In July, Danielson finally called police after yet another assault. Fayson was arrested and spent a brief period in jail before being released with a restraining order that prevented him from contacting Danielson.
On September 28, Fayson violated the no contact order, entering Danielson’s Minneapolis home. Fayson doused Danielson and her bed with gasoline, then lit her on fire. Though she made it out of the burning house, Danielson was severely injured. A neighbor talked to CBS Minnesota about finding the young mom crying for help:
“The gal was on her hands and knees yelling, ‘Help me, help!’ So I ran down there. She was pretty messed up. She’s burnt pretty badly.”
Sadly, Danielson died of her injuries. Fayson was also burned during the incident and remains in the hospital. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Fayson has been charged with second-degree murder.
Danielson’s brother told the Star Tribune that his sister was the victim of a “horrible predator”:
She had multiple sclerosis. … She was only about 80 pounds soaking wet. She was weak physically and mentally and didn’t have the ability to keep these monsters out of her life.”
Stepanchak has adopted her daughter’s 5-year-old son (from a previous relationship), and relatives have set up a GoFundMe page for funeral expenses and the child’s care. Stepanchak told CBS Minnesota that she hopes her daughter’s story will help others find the strength to leave an abusive relationship before it’s too late:
“It isn’t just about you. Your family, they are affected, too, and suffer.”
Danielson’s brother echoes the family’s regret that they weren’t able to save her. As he told the Star Tribune:
“My family and I did everything we could to help her, but people like this guy prey on weak people like her.”