His Sister Was Dead. Then He Opened Her Laptop

Alex Youn retraced the steps his sister took to try to get help
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 8, 2022 4:20 PM CDT
Updated Sep 11, 2022 7:55 AM CDT
She Documented the Domestic Violence. It Wasn't Enough
   (Getty Images / mathildaDV)

His sister was dead. But she "had left a trail." So writes Paige Pfleger for NPR in examining the deaths of Alex Youn's sister and mother—and their aftermath. Marie Varsos, 31, and Debbie Sisco, 60, were shot dead on April 12, 2021, by Varsos' husband, Shaun, who then killed himself. While settling his sister's affairs, Youn noticed her password on a sticky note inside her laptop. Once he unlocked the laptop, he found a detailed log of domestic violence—and ultimately futile attempts to be protected from it. Pfleger writes that Marie first sought help from police on March 7, just over a month before her death. Recordings saved on her computer capture her yelling, "Stop! Don't put your hands on me!" She said she was choked to unconsciousness by Shaun and woke to find a gun to her head.

She was able to escape and called police—and was told by a dispatcher that no one was available to help. "A patrol car is going to have to free up from whatever they're doing," the dispatcher said. "But they do have to take those life-threatening emergencies first." Marie did manage to file a police report and secure an order of protection. Shaun was arrested days later but accidentally released early; a goof by a sheriff's deputy meant Marie wasn't notified; Shaun had been ordered to give up his guns, but there is no evidence that happened. He showed up at Marie's mom's house in a rental car; the women saw him and tried to run but were murdered in a neighbor's yard. Youn said his sister's attempts to get help were stymied by "irregularities ... loopholes and the failures in the system." He's been fighting to fix them, and has managed to get one new law passed. (Read the full story here.)

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