Friday — February 04, 2022
Teen Dating Violence - The Emma Walker Story
by: Cesar J Segura
On any given weekday in the United States, parents spend time waking their children for school. As part of their daily routine, parents generally do not think much of this task. However, on one cold Monday in November of 2016, Jill Walker received the shock of her life when attempting to awake her daughter, Emma, at 6:15 am. Sadly, Emma did not wake up this morning. Once law enforcement arrived, they determined that Emma had been shot and killed in the early hours of the morning. Now, I know you might be wondering how a teenage girl could be killed in her own bed without anyone else in the home being alerted. In an odd case, the perpetrator shot through the walls of Emma’s room precisely where her bed was located.
The weeks leading up to Emma’s death were a bit unusual to say the least. Just days before her tragic passing, Emma made a strange request that her parents turn on their home’s alarm system. Generally, Emma a did not see the need for such a device, however, in recent weeks she had been experiencing a heightened need for safety. You see, Emma was not unlike many teens. Unfortunately, Emma was one of the many teenagers who experience dating violence from an intimate partner. Currently 1 in 3 teenagers are subject to abuse (including sexual, verbal, emotional, or physical abuse) from their partner (CHOP 2019). Not all teen dating violence ends in a murder, though, through Emma’s story we can see a progression of abuse that can be seen in many other teenage relationships.
At the beginning, Emma’s relationship with her abuser seemed like a normal teenage relationship. However, in the winter of 2015 issues started to arise between the two. Jill (Emma’s mother) explains she noticed a bit of emotional and verbal abuse when stumbling across messages between the pair. It was believed that Emma’s abuser, William Gaul, was in communication with his ex-girlfirend and leading both women on. For months, Emma and William were in an off and on relationship with Gaul using emotional manipulation to keep Emma around. Finally, Emma made a final decision to split up in the fall of 2016. However, Gaul, like most abusers refused to accept Emma’s decision and created an elaborate string of events to win Emma back. Just days before her murder, Emma received a strange phone call (from an unknown number) in which the person on the other end stated they had kidnapped someone that she knew. The person on the other end requested Emma come outside the party she was at to save the person who was kidnapped. To her surprise, Emma was shocked to see William outside of the party lying on the ground. At first, Gaul claimed to not remember any of the events that had transpired. However, he later claimed to hear the kidnappers state “Call Emma” while in their custody. Despite warnings from her friends as they had seen similar behavior from Gaul before Emma believed him.
The next day, a masked man showed up on Emma’s doorstep while she was home alone. Panicked, Emma called Gaul for help. Emma’s friends informed her that this was just another attempt by Gaul to scare Emma into returning to him. A thought that the prosecution in Gaul’s murder trial also echoed. Consistently, Gaul emotionally abused and stalked Emma to keep her in his orbit and exercise some form of control on her. On her last night alive, Gaul created a final plan to scare Emma back into his arms. Gaul claimed that he shot into the side of Emma’s bedroom to scare her, and he had no intentions of hurting Emma. Though the prosecution claimed Gaul knew exactly where Emma slept, knowing a shot in that area could inflict damage to his ex-girlfriend. Although Emma will never return, William was sentenced to life in prison being convicted of first-degree murder, stalking, reckless endangerment, theft, tampering with evidence and possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony (Warnock 2021).
Though a disturbing case, Emma unfortunately is not alone. Approximately 13% of 6th to 9th graders in 13 Midwest schools reported being stalked, with equal proportions of boys and girls affected (CHOP 2019). With increased access to technology, teen violence and stalking has seen a rapid increase in its prevalence among today’s youth. Adolescents who have been victimized by violence are at a greater risk for suicide, depression, substance abuse, and interpersonal conflicts. Through awareness and education on healthy relationships, we can hope to help end the cycle of abuse among teens.