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011014 murder suicide

Melissa Dunlap took this photo of Holly Schick-Lewis and Michael Buckles at a wedding at the Darby Community Center recently.

DARBY – The victim of this week’s murder-suicide near Darby spent the last few months of her life in fear, enduring violent beatings and grisly threats by the man who eventually took her life.

Holly Schick-Lewis, 50, was granted a Standing Order of No Contact in late October after her live-in boyfriend, 53-year-old Michael Buckles, hit her in the jaw hard enough to bruise her cheek and cut her lips.

In chilling detail, Schick-Lewis told officers that Buckles “terrorized” her and had repeatedly threatened to “cut her up into tiny little pieces and put her in the pond out back.”

A few weeks earlier, she reported that Buckles had slugged her as hard as he could and threatened to “bash her stupid brains in.”

The two had been dating just four months.

In requesting protection, Schick-Lewis noted that Buckles owned multiple firearms and had also threatened her with a baton. The order was granted last Oct. 28, but the two apparently reconciled and moved into another rental house near Lake Como on Dec. 16.

Just 21 days later, Schick-Lewis was dead. Her body was discovered on Monday by a friend visiting the house. She had been shot multiple times and left to die in the kitchen.

Buckles’ body was discovered in the bedroom. The Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office determined that Buckles had murdered Schick-Lewis and then took his own life with a gun.

***

Buckles was arrested on Oct. 25 of last year for misdemeanor partner or family member assault.

According to Ravalli County Justice Court records, Deputy Matt Reynolds responded to a residence on U.S. Highway 93 in Conner on a domestic violence report. Schick-Lewis had called officers after fleeing the mobile home where she lived with Buckles.

Earlier in the evening, she had gone to a nearby friend’s house. When she returned, Buckles was angry. As the couple argued, Buckles made an aggressive motion toward Schick-Lewis, struck her on the left side of the face and pulled her hair.

Fearing what would happen next, Schick-Lewis gathered a few blankets and a dog and sought shelter at a neighbor’s home.

Officers noted and photographed a red mark on the left side of Schick-Lewis’ face and cut lips, and she also complained of jaw pain. She also reported that Buckles had struck her in the arm about three weeks earlier. Reynolds observed a bruise on her upper left bicep consistent with her account.

Schick-Lewis told the deputy that she was afraid of Buckles and that he had threatened her life in the past.

When Reynolds interviewed Buckles, he confirmed that the two had argued. He claimed that Schick-Lewis closed his foot in the recliner where she was sitting, which caused him to lose his balance and hit her. He might have inadvertently struck the side of her face and might have pulled her hair in an attempt to regain his balance, Buckles said.

Based on Schick-Lewis’ statements and the physical evidence, plus inconsistencies in Buckles’ story, officers arrested Buckles and took him to the Ravalli County Detention Center.

Ravalli County Justice of the Peace Jim Bailey granted Schick-Lewis the Standing Order of No Contact on Oct. 28. That order superseded a 72-hour temporary restraining order.

***

Schick-Lewis and Buckles apparently reconciled and moved into a house on Lake Como Road on Dec. 16.

Sherry Foster of Hamilton lived in the house before them, and showed the couple around before they moved in. Foster said she didn’t notice anything amiss between the two.

“They were super nice people,” Foster recalled.

Three weeks later, both were dead and the house was cordoned off behind crime-scene tape.

In seeking the restraining order, Schick-Lewis reported other details that provide a glimpse of Buckles’ abusive behavior toward her.

“During every big fight, Michael comes at me and screams in my face, spitting, swearing, name calling,” she wrote. “And then is specific about how he will cut me up into tiny little pieces and put me in the pond.”

Schick-Lewis went into detail about an Oct. 11 incident.

“We were driving,” she wrote. “Michael stopped the truck because we were arguing, at which point he pulled back and slugged me as hard as he could twice on my left upper arm and threatening to bash my stupid brains in.”

Schick-Lewis also described a toxic atmosphere in the home she shared with Buckles.

“Angry, silent, tension in the house,” she wrote.

During the Oct. 25 incident, Schick-Lewis detailed the assault that led to Buckles’ arrest.

He “came across the room and whacked the side of my face with a closed hand,” she wrote. “Michael yelled right in my face, spitting, terrorizing me. Then he whacked me across the right side of my face, grabbed my hair and shoved me deep into the recliner. I left and went to a friend’s. At that point, I called police. They came and arrested him promptly.”

She also described her injuries.

“Swollen lips, bruise below my right eye on cheekbone, chipped tooth,” she wrote.

***

Stacey Umhey, executive director of Hamilton’s emergency shelter for domestic violence victims, called S.A.F.E. in the Bitterroot, said there are many options available to people who are afraid of their partner.

“One of the most unfortunate pieces of this whole situation, as you can see, there are a lot of supports available for people,” she said. “There are a lot of things people can do to keep themselves safe, and yet there is still a tragedy like this. At that point, the question kind of changes to what can we as a community do to stop people from using violence. When we try to figure out what women can do, we are not getting at the cause of this violence, and the cause of the terrible tragic situation was somebody making the choice to use violence in this instance.”

Umhey said the criminal justice system worked properly in this case.

“When I think of everything, law enforcement did exactly what they were supposed to do, the court system did exactly what it was supposed to,” she said. “And in many instances those supports work well, but in this instance they didn’t work. The question becomes what made that person make that choice.”

The challenge now for the community is to find out how to intervene with people who are going to use violence, according to Umhey.

“There’s always a resource for safety,” she said. “People can feel so isolated, and they can feel like there aren’t any supports, but there are. S.A.F.E. has a 24-hour hotline at 363-4600 that they can call day or night. People who need to use the shelter can call it, and people who don’t need the shelter can call it. The solution looks different for everybody, and we help people find the right solution for themselves.”

***

Holly Schick-Lewis was a mother and a grandmother. A memorial fund has been established at America First Credit Union in her name to help her family in their time of grief.

Contributions can be mailed or made at any America First Credit Union to the “Holly Noel Schick Memorial Fund,” P.O. Box 9199, Ogden, Utah 84409-0199, or by calling 1-800-999-3961.

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Reporter David Erickson can be reached at david.erickson@ravallirepublic.com.

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