Over the weekend in Doney Park, children ran around the back lot of 2 Bar 3, jumping in inflatable bounce houses, while their parents laughed, ate and listened to music as bubbles floated through the air.
The families gathered for the Crystal Morgan Memorial Festival, set up to honor the woman allegedly slain by her husband in Doney Park in March, and raise money for the children who are now without parents.
A medical examiner found that Morgan died from 33 stab wounds; she was discovered by sheriff's deputies on her neighbor’s lawn. A grand jury has charged her husband Timothy Duran with first-degree murder, alleging he committed domestic violence when he stabbed his wife in their home days after she filed for divorce.
Trista Dougi, Melissa Matthews and Kimberly George organized the event received donations from the community for the festival. All workers at the event wore purple, the color of domestic violence awareness ribbons.
Matthews knew this festival and its purpose was important, but said working on it was hard in light of her friend's death.
“I love seeing how the whole community has come together to support this, and that obviously does my heart good, but it’s sad that we have to be here,” Matthews said.
At the festival while children played, parents bid on over 50 donated items for a silent auction, and families all money parents spent on food went to Morgan's children. Altogether, George said they raised nearly $9,000 from the afternoon event that friends said will be put into an account for the children to access when they are older.
“(Morgan) loved her girls more than anything,” George said. “That’s why this was so important to do this for them, bring the community together, which has been amazing to see.”
The Arizona Department of Child Safety removed Morgan and Duran’s children from their Doney Park home the day of their mother’s death, grandmother Shirley Ouren said. Ouren said they have been trying to reach the children through DCS, but have had trouble getting through.
Since the mother’s death, the Morgan family has only seen the children at the memorial and have heard secondhand that the children have chosen to stay with a member of Duran’s family out of state.
“What hurts more than anything else is that we’re being so shut out,” Ouren said.
'A controlling man'
Morgan’s cousin Vanessa Stedman said their families were close. Stedman said she and Morgan grew up going on road trips and adventures, while having fun and making each other laugh. One friend described Morgan as a social butterfly with a quick wit who used her social nature to bring people together.
Many of these same friends and family believe the current allegations against Morgan’s husband. Ouren alleged that Duran wasn’t thinking on the day of the alleged events.
“He was a controlling man, and he was not going to lose her,” Ouren said.
Stedman said she saw signs of domestic violence while the two were living together in Doney Park.
“She was telling us the signs, but it was just too late,” Stedman said. “At that point, I think she was scared for herself, and she was trying to reach out for help.”
While they tried to help when Morgan reached out to them, they felt there was little they could do. Stedman said she sees domestic violence incidents in her work as a member of law enforcement, and never thought it would happen in her life.
“It doesn’t really hit home until it hits home,” Stedman said.
A common feeling
Andrea Scully, children’s program coordinator of Sharon Manor, said it is common for people to be unsure of how to act when they suspect a friend is experiencing domestic violence. Sharon Manor is located in Flagstaff and offers services for women, men and families experiencing domestic violence, including counseling and temporary housing.
Scully suggested finding a way to get domestic violence victims in front of trained resources who can act quickly, like herself, doctors or teachers. She said people who suspect a friend might be a victim of domestic violence should also continually reinforce and support them.
“It’s very difficult to help with that situation,” Scully said. “I will say, it’s important to be there for somebody and to let that person know you are available, whether its 3 in the morning or 3 at night, that you’re available if they need to run.”
Over the past four years, domestic violence incidents reported to the Flagstaff Police Department have gradually decreased for the most part. Still, the Flagstaff Police Department reported 1,482 cases of domestic violence incidents in 2017, according to their annual reports.
Scully said people who are experiencing domestic violence should exercise discretion and create a plan for leaving.
“Don’t think things are going to change, don’t think the person who's been abusing you for all these years is going to change, because they’re not,” she said.
Stedman and Ouren said after losing Morgan, they did not want anything similar to happen to anyone else.
“What’s done is done and we can’t go back, we can just hope that other young ladies will hear and know that things will be OK,” Ouren said.
“Families will always be there to help, they just have to reach out,” Stedman added.