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Keep the candle of hope flickering so others dont suffer Tevanies fate
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Tevanie Deanne Lantz by all accounts was a good person and a good mom.

That description fights aptly with the impression I got from the handful of times our paths crossed as Tevanie was good friends with my step-daughter Heather.

Tevanie was murdered in the predawn of a July morning from multiple stab wounds in her own front yard in Manteca as she tried to flee her attacker. The man accused of killing Tevani was her husband.

Tevanie did not deserve to die. Nor do others who are victims of the ultimate in domestic violence.

Family and friends gathered Sunday evening at First Baptist Church on North Street to hold a candlelight vigil and share memories of the 34-year-old mom.

They also gathered for another reason just as important. As they held flickering candles they shared the hope that no one should have to suffer the abuse that Tevanie did.

It is a noble dream that unfortunately may become harder to attain thanks to the state’s financial meltdown that is putting society’s mechanism for helping victims of abuse under severe stress.

Topping it all off is the federal court mandate that may force California to release twice a many inmates earlier than the 20,000 plus the California Legislature plans to cut lose to help grapple with the massive state deficit.

No matter how unpopular early release was for the budget balancing act, the target was basically drug offenders and burglars who definitely do damage to society but on the overall list of savage offenders are pretty well far down the food chain. The court mandate will force the state to look at releasing those put away for more violent crimes that may have been model prisoners since the day they stepped into prison.

Many perpetrators of domestic violence are Dr. Jekylls and Mr. Hydes. They appear to the world as an entirely different person than the low-life vicious abuser preying on their victims whether it is a wife, spouse, children or significant other. Think Scott Peterson.

The odds are great in the coming year many imprisoned domestic violence criminals will be getting out early. This is happening as the state is cutting back on parole officers, counties are struggling to keep the ranks of law enforcement from police to probation officers in place, and while non-profit agencies that help the victims of domestic violence are under severe financial stress.

At the same time, the San Joaquin County Jail is bursting at the seams while juvenile hall has fewer beds available that it did back in the 1960s.

There is only one way to have a solid chance at reducing domestic violence and that is to get to potential offenders and try to steer them away from that path before they start slinking down it. Once you’ve reached the point in this state where a judge will actually send you to prison you’ve become pretty hardcore at your crime of choice.

One way is to call organizations such as the South County Crisis Center, Haven of Peace and the San Joaquin Women’s Center to see what you can do to help. Money is always needed but so is your time.

As for the perpetrators of domestic violence crimes, the only way to keep them from early release is reforming our state prison system to reduce costs and making it tougher for domestic violence victims to skirt incarceration because of overcrowding.

The courts are following the laws created by the California Legislature. It is time to rethink how we physically warehouse inmates.

Reforming those convicted is a nice idea but the extremely high recidivism rate suggests those who are sent to the Big House in California were pretty much on the path to being career criminals long before they struck out under state law.

The answer always seems to come back to getting through to people when they are young and before they develop warped sets of values that convince them it is OK to abuse, beat, torture, and even kill people they are supposed to love.

The best way we can honor the memory and lives of people such as Tevanie who are lost to domestic violence is to do whatever we can to make a difference in a kid’s life.

You can’t change the shape of a tree once it’s taken roots and matured.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail