Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed "Tierne's Law," letting county courts set guidelines for assessing whether a defendant in such cases poses a threat, WTAE reports.
February 14, 2017:
For 12 days Tierne Ewing lived Hell on Earth, kidnapped and tortured, even branded with a scorching-hot metal rod. But this was no random attack.
Special Correspondent Kim Goldman is in Pennsylvania with an all new Crime Watch Daily investigation.
Kidnapped, beaten and tortured: Tierne Ewing is desperate to escape a sadistic captor -- it's her husband of 30 years.
How did a young love that began in grade school blossom into a fatal attraction? And how did the system sworn to protect Tierne ultimately betray her?
With so many horrific stories of domestic abuse, it might be easy to overlook the struggles of Tierne Ewing, a 48-year-old mother of two from rural Washington County, Pennsylvania.
Tierne and Kevin Ewing began dating in the 8th grade, a turning point in her life according to those closest to her.
"We tried so hard to get them apart," said Annelle Kopko, Tierne's mother. "And maybe she'd date somebody else, or what have you. But he wasn't gonna adhere to that -- she was his."
"She just became distant and she wasn't allowed to do much with her friends, and I mean she had a lot of friends," said Tierne's sister Tascha Kopko.
"She just started pulling away from the family and he had control over her then," said another sister, Toyia Taylor.
Tierne was married at just 18, and soon the teen bride found herself raising two young children. At first, all seemed well between her and Kevin.
But Kevin Ewing had a reputation as a violent man, with a rap sheet to back it up. And he would soon turn that rage against the mother of his children.
After a 2001 incident that left Tierne battered and bruised, she received a court ordered Protection From Abuser (PFA).
"She had been hospitalized or required medical treatment from those injuries," said Kristen Clingerman.
But as hard as it is to believe, Tierne would soon get back together with Kevin.
According to Washington County Assistant District Attorney Kristin Clingerman, who specializes in victims of domestic abuse, there's a good reason for that.
"Tierne expressed to me over and over that she was so afraid for her family, for her adult children, and for her elderly parents who are very frail, and that she had to stay near him to protect them," said Clingerman. "He would always say that he would kill them in front of her if she didn't do his bidding."
"It would fire my dad up so bad that we had to stop him many times from leaving to go look for him, or..."
Trapped in this vicious cycle of violence, Tierne did her best to put on a brave face.
Finally, in July 2016, Tierne Ewing reached her breaking point. She and Kevin Ewing had again separated, with Kevin living with his mother while Tierne remained in the family home with their adult son. Then a terrifying turning point: for 12 straight days, Tierne called in sick to work and made virtually no contact with her family.
What no one knew was that she had been abducted by Kevin Ewing and held captive against her will while being hideously terrorized and tortured.
"At night he would tie a cord around her neck and then tie it to himself so that she couldn't escape when he slept," said Clingerman. "And multiple times throughout this he would hold a gun to her head, tell her she was going to die, tell her her parents were going to die, he would kill her parents in front of her and then kill her."
Throughout the ordeal, Kevin never let Tierne out of his sight.
"He went everywhere with her, to the bathroom, everywhere," said Tierne's mother.
"He took her to a very desolate area, to a location near water. She was terrified of water, she couldn't swim and during that time he had a metal rod that he put in a fire that they cooked hot dogs on, and he had burned her legs several places up and down her legs," said Clingerman. "He had stomped on her foot, she could only wear flip-flops. He had stomped on her foot so she couldn't run."
Then, finally on day 12 of her tortuous captivity, Tierne spies a chance to escape -- but it could cost her her life.
On July 8, 2016, Kevin Ewing made a mistake. That afternoon he drove Tierne at gunpoint to a local credit union to pay their mortgage.
"I don't know what got into him that he felt comfortable, maybe, that he let her go in alone and it was the first time she had been able to go alone," said Clingerman.
"Once she was in there immediately told them to call the police, that she had been held hostage," said assistant D.A. Kristin Clingerman.
Employees called police and locked Tierne in another room. Officers arrived and took Kevin Ewing into custody.
"And even once the police got there and apprehended him and arrested him, she was too afraid to go out the front door. She insisted that the police take her out the back door where he couldn't see her," said Clingerman.
Kevin was arrested outside the credit union that Kevin was arrested. And Tierne thought her nightmare was finally over. But the terror continued. Despite a court order that restricted him from having any weapons, Kevin was armed to the teeth.
"He had two loaded guns, a handgun and a rifle, and he also had a knife," said Clingerman.
Tierne was taken to a local hospital, and police learned the full extent of the abuse she endured. [Warning: Injuries are disturbing, images are graphic.]
Tierne been pistol-whipped across the head, her knees bashed with a hammer, her legs branded with a hot skewer, and spit on in the face. Even for veteran assistant district attorney Clingerman, it's some of the worst abuse she's ever seen.
"He had also beaten her, he had slammed her about the room, she had bruises on her shoulders, her back, her legs, he had duct-taped her mouth shut and with zip-ties and duct tape tied her to a closet for an extended period of time," said Clingerman. "At night he would tie a cord around her neck and then tie it to himself so that she couldn't escape when he slept."
When police searched the Ewings' home, they found disturbing evidence of her torture and captivity: used zip-ties, duct tape, blood. But with the couple's adult son living in the home, and Kevin and Tierne often leaving the house, how did no one ever notice?
"Tierne explained to me she kept long sleeves on and did not point out the bruises," said Clingerman.
In fact, Tierne's own parents learned of her kidnapping in the local paper. Her father Rich was even more devastated when he saw what happened with his own eyes.
In addition to charges of kidnapping, assaulting and terrorizing his wife, Kevin Ewing also violated his Protection From Abuser order.
But to everyone's dismay, the judge allowed Kevin Ewing to post bond until trial, and he's set free.
Fearing for her life, Tierne turns to Assistant D.A. Kristin Clingerman.
"She said 'He's out of jail, you gotta get him back in if he's out, I'm going to die, and I don't want to die," Clingerman said.
Kevin Ewing returned to court, this time to face the discretion of Judge Gary Gilman.
"I put forth the charges with which he was charged: That he had kidnapped her. He had assaulted her," said Clingerman. "I attached photographs of all of the injuries that had been taken of her wounds and her injuries. I explained the charges he was being charged with, and one of those charges was important because being that he had been convicted of domestic violence prior, he was not permitted under Pennsylvania law to be in possession of firearms, yet he was found with two firearms. I also explained that he had had the prior domestic violence, and had requested that bond be raised to a more appropriate sum."
Kevin Ewing is ordered to wear an ankle-bracelet monitor and is strictly forbidden from contacting Tierne.
But will it be enough to keep the battered wife safe?
"She was certainly in fear for her life," said Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Sarah Teagarden.
According to Teagarden, for several weeks it seemed that Kevin was abiding by the judge's order.
"He hadn't violated any of the conditions of that bond. And I think he did that intentionally," said Teagarden. "I really think that he thought 'If I just play the good guy, if I show her I'm willing to change, I'm willing to abide by all these conditions and move on with my life, do the right thing,' I think he did all of those to try to draw her back in and sucker her back in and get access to her again."
If that was his plan, it worked to tragic perfection.
Despite a court order forbidding Kevin Ewing from contacting Tierne, and an ankle bracelet to monitor his every movement, the fatal attraction of Kevin and Tierne drew them back together yet again.
Tierne ended up in the house with Kevin and his mom. Tierne's sister tells Crime Watch Daily Special Correspondent Kim Goldman she believes it was an act of selfless courage.
"I believe she was there to protect her family. I think the top priority was to keep everyone safe, and she didn't want anybody else drug into this with her."
"The only thing that I can tell you is that she was convinced that she had to stay near him to protect her family members," said Kristin Clingerman.
Tierne was a tough girl, she was not going to go out there and look for help, she felt like she could handle it and that she could make it right and keep her family together," said state trooper Sarah Teagarden.
Tierne's father Rich has another theory, that Kevin Ewing's attorneys warned their client that he was in serious trouble for his latest assault on Tierne, and that he had said he was never going back to jail.
At midnight on August 30, 2016, Kevin Ewing began the final chapter in this ill-fated romance.
"The Pennsylvania State Police received a call from Rosalie Riggle, which is Kevin Ewing's mother, and she advised that Kevin had been in the house with a gun, holding them hostage in the basement of the house," said Teagarden. "He had cut off his ankle monitor and took Tierne out of the house and put her in the car, and they left the house."
"I received a call at about 5:30 a.m. that he had taken her, and that's when I knew there wasn't going to be a happy ending," said Clingerman.
"We had worked the case all day trying to locate them, hadn't had any luck in locating them," said Teagarden.
That afternoon, a local farmer spotted something unusual in a remote field.
"He noticed in a barn, located in the field, that there was a pair of blue jeans hanging out the window of the barn," said Teagarden.
Police check it out. The moment they arrive on scene, they're greeted by screams and gunshots.
"They heard the initial shot. They heard a female voice say, 'Why'd you have to shoot me?' And they heard the second shot," said Teagarden. They heard a man's voice yell, 'Get out of here.' And then they heard the third shot."
Tierne was being held in the loft of the old barn. Police made their way inside, confirming her family's worst fears.
"We realized that the first shot that they heard, he had shot her in the forehead," said Trooper Sarah Teagarden. "And a .22-caliber, it's not a very powerful gun, and that bullet actually didn't penetrate her skull, it just kind of traveled between her skull and her skin to the back of her head. However, after she exclaimed 'Why'd you have to shoot me?' he shot her again in the temple and that shot did penetrate her skull and caused her death."
Kevin Ewing saved the last shot for his own temple, but incredibly, cops find him still alive.
"They performed some lifesaving measures on him," said Teagarden. "They were able to get him into a helicopter and transferred to a Pittsburgh hospital, where he remained alive for a couple of days.
Kevin Ewing finally succumbed to his cowardly, self-inflicted wound.
"The judge killed my daughter. The judge killed my daughter," said Richard Kopko, Tierne's father.
Crime Watch Daily reached out to Washington County Judge Gary Gilman for his response to Tierne's parents' allegations, and got a brief "No comment."
But Pennsylvania State Senator Camera Bartolotta was so moved by Tierne's story that she introduced domestic violence legislation in the victim's name.
"With this bill, it would actually give our judges more tools to use in determining whether or not to even set bail. And to be able to use their discretion and deny bail if they believe that the risk assessment is high enough that there might even be a potential of a dangerous situation for a victim," said Bartolotta.