HAMMOND | When defense attorney John Cantrell last December went to the Lake County Jail to see his new client, a 17-year-old Gary boy who shot and killed his father, he asked the boy how he was doing.
Cantrell said the boy was calm when he answered, "I'm happy to be here."
Thomas Mallory Jr. faced murder charges at the time despite the shooting being the result of years of domestic abuse by his father, a man Cantrell knew to be a skilled but often out-of-work construction worker.
The circumstances of the shooting didn't meet the legal criteria to qualify as self-defense, Cantrell explained last week.
Thomas Mallory Sr., 39, was asleep in his bed when his namesake shot him the morning of Dec. 19, 2012, while the boy's mother was out of the house. The shooting followed just the latest night of physical violence toward the boy's mother.
Mallory Jr., now 18, ultimately pleaded guilty to reckless homicide.
As October's observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month was winding down, the court approved a four-year suspended sentence for the boy, crediting him for the eight months he'd spent in the Lake County Jail and ordering the remaining time served on probation.
"This is a very difficult case for a number of reasons," said Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter, who in October participated in a number of domestic violence panels.
Carter said the boy's mother had been beaten repeatedly, and the violence extended to the couple's children, with Mallory Jr., the eldest, taking the brunt of the abuse.
"From all indications, the boy was acting in the defense of his mother," Carter said, describing the elder Mallory as a much larger individual than his son.
"There's a strong argument to be made he tried to equalize the situation by catching him off guard," Carter said.
The elder Mallory was 6 feet, 2 inches and weighted 215 pounds; his son is slight and perhaps 5 feet, 3 inches.
Nevertheless, Carter said his office initially could not accept a self-defense argument because it did not fit the legal definition.
Angela Mallory, now of Hammond, last week spoke about the ordeal, urging other women who may be walking in her shoes to not accept empty promises of "I'll change" from an abusive spouse, as she did for years.
Mallory told a classic tale of domestic violence that ended in the unthinkable.
"I felt sorry for him," she said of her husband. "I was with him for so long."
The couple met in junior high school in East Chicago, later beginning a relationship during which they had three sons and a daughter. The children range from 18 to 10 years old.
"Everything was fine at first," she said. "I was told he was like that, but I never saw it until after we had our first son."
The elder Mallory became controlling, then increasingly abusive, finally holding the family captive in their various homes, moving from Indiana to Florida to South Carolina and back to Indiana.
Angela Mallory, a devout Christian, turned more and more to her faith for support.
"I believe in God strongly," she said. "I left the church for a while because we had different beliefs."
The couple for a while attended church together despite her husband not liking her church services. She wasn't allowed to go alone because her husband said she would meet another man.
Her pastor did step in when he saw signs of abuse, telling her, "You have to let him go."
Her family supported her until they grew weary.
"They were tired of me running back and forth," she said of her inability to leave Mallory.
Often the family's sole support, she lost jobs because of Mallory's disturbances at her workplaces.
"I lost management positions because I was embarrassed to go back to work," she said. "I'd have a black eye or something. He wouldn't let me go. He'd mess up my clothes. I would go from a management position back to minimum wage."
Abuse persisted despite restraining order
Mallory had a restraining order against her husband in Indiana, but he'd beat the system even after charges would be filed, she said. While living in South Carolina with the help of a family member, Thomas Mallory Sr. was finally jailed for a year, only to return to his old ways when returning to Indiana.
The turmoil affected the children, she said.
"At times they couldn't sleep, wondering what would come next," she said.
She had no clue what her eldest son was about to do the morning of Dec. 19.
"He was yelling at us all night," she said of her husband. "I broke the window trying to get attention." She forgot no one could hear, since the family was living in a trailer off Ridge Road in Gary.
"He smacked me and pushed me to the ground," she said.
The next morning she left with her daughter to shop for something the girl needed because she wasn't permitted to the night before.
When they returned, her husband wasn't up. When she realized he had been shot dead, she called 911.
Later she would ask her eldest son at the police station, "Why did you do this?"
"He said, 'You're free, Mom.' "
"It broke my heart," she said. "That's all he said to me. I felt bad because I should have left a long time ago."
Today the family's overriding feeling is one of relief and safety. They are seeing a family therapist.
"We were captive. Now we can breathe," she said. "Had I not been so blind, maybe it would have been different."
Of her son, a good student who had never been trouble, she said he's getting the love he needs. "I know he's going to get it together," she said.
Carter said the outcome satisfied all concerned, including the elder Mallory's own family.
"We spoke to family members to get what they wanted to do, as someone who could speak on behalf of the victim," he said.
"The victim's own mother was in complete agreement," he said.