Parents of Swatara Twp. murder victim speaking out to save others


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The parents of a Midstate murder victim just said their final goodbyes to their daughter this week.

They’re sharing their story in hopes of changing laws and saving others in domestic violence situations.

“You shouldn’t bury your children. Your children are supposed to bury you,” Penni Spence said.

Penni and her husband Joel Spence just did.

Police say their daughter, 36-year-old Elizabeth Wise was killed by her husband two weeks ago in Swatara Township before he took his own life.

“This individual had a very long history of domestic violence and abuse: two prior wives and also with our daughter,” Joel Spence said.

Joel says Elizabeth did file charges, but not a protection from abuse order.

“That choice should not ever be in a victim’s hand,” Joel said. “Law enforcement should be able to explain to the judiciary, this individual needs a PFA. This is not a one-time incident.”

Joel is a gun owner himself. Penni knows how to use it too. But they say that doesn’t mean everyone should be able to have one.

“People gotta be made aware of the violence of guns and not putting them in the hands of the wrong people,” Penni said.

The couple, up from North Carolina, just buried Elizabeth on Tuesday. They want victims to know help is available.

“There’s options out there. There’s places that they can go to and they can help them and direct them in the right positive way,” Penni said.

But more importantly, they’re calling on the state legislature to strengthen the law so other parents don’t have to bury their children, too.

“I’d like to see this face be the face on t-shirts, this face be people’s face that they remember a year from now, our daughter Elizabeth, a victim of domestic violence,” Joel said.

If you or someone you know is in a domestic violence situation, you can contact the Victim/Witness Assistance Program:

Adult Victim Services Unit: 717-780-7075

Juvenile Victim Services Unit: 717-780-7080

Protection from Abuse Unit: 717-780-7077

You can find more resources on the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s website.

There is also a 24-hour national hotline available at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

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