Zuver Defends Her Life; Gets 21 Years
know that if I hadn't shot Kim that night,
I wouldn't be here today."
night, 2000, Debi Zuver was getting out. Her two-year relationship
with Kim Garloff, always punctuated with violence and threats
to kill, had now become unbearable. In her words: "I saw too
much. I wanted out. I wanted my life back." But she knew it
would be dangerous.
was a crank dealer with all that entailed increasing
methamphetamine use and paranoia, a fondness for guns and other
weapons, and a team of "enforcers" who made sure people did
what Kim said. He relished telling Debi stories of his violence
against people who owed him money and against the women in his
talked of Jody Lester, who testified at Debi's sentencing hearing.
Her relationship with Garloff had been fraught with his beatings,
running her car off the road, shooting at her moving car, slashing
her tires, and the ever-present threats to kill. Some of those
death threats sounded eerily similar to Garloff's threats against
was slated to stand trial in January on three felonies related
to the manufacture and sale of meth-amphetamine. This would
be his third strike. Debi was to be his alibi witness. As the
trial date neared, Kim Garloff was losing it. His need for total
control over Debi became more and more frightening and his threats
to kill more graphic.
my star witness, Baby. You better hope I end up walkin' out
of this, because if I'm through, you're through. And you're
days before Thanksgiving, Debi called Garloff's lawyer and said
she wasn't going to testify that she wouldn't perjure
herself to save him. Garloff, sitting in the lawyer's office,
grabbed the phone. "I know what you're up to," he growled.
It was at
that point that Debi started sleeping with a gun under her pillow.
night, Debi Zuver was packing her things to flee to a friend's
house. She went to check out a noise in the other room just
in time to see Kim Garloff enter her living room, locking the
door behind him.
her down on the bed, stuck his knee in her chest and beat her,
all the while threatening her life. He threw her cross the room
against the wall. He said she was just going to be a "missing
person" because he would kill her, put her body in a hole someplace
in the middle of nowhere, cover her over with lye and her family
would never know what happened to her.
then sat down on the couch and said, "Get me my goddamned gun."
Debi says she got the gun from under her pillow and walked across
the room. "I was actually going to give him the gun," she said.
"Instead I shot him."
all this, Judge Daum determined the evidence of battered women's
syndrome was not convincing; refused to accept that the victim
(Garloff) had been the aggressor and precipitated the incident;
and determined Debi was not acting under duress or in defense
of her own life. He sentenced her to 21 years the maximum
for manslaughter and the maximum for the use of a gun. It felt
like a kick in the chest.
is even more chilling in light of the recent dismissal of all
charges against Petaluma doctor Louis Pelfini, charged with
homicide and domestic violence in the smothering death of Janet
Pelfini, his wife. Because of double jeopardy, Louis Pelfini
cannot be charged again for criminal behavior in Janet's death.
(For more on the Pelfini dismissal click
rights activists, we are alarmed at the deadly messages these
two cases send to the community: "If you kill your wife you'll
get away with it," and, "If you're a battered woman you better
shut up and take it because the cops won't protect you and if
you dare protect yourself, we're gonna rip your life away."
isn't right. We need to get Debi Zuver and all women who kill
their batterers out of prison. They've lost enough of their