During their time attending Greenville Area schools, Scott Brady came to know Rebecca Patterson Bibart well.
They first met in kindergarten and joined the district’s gifted program together in second grade. At Greenville High School, they shared almost every class together in an academic curriculum for top students.
Brady remembers Bibart as a student able to move seamlessly among the school’s various cliques.
“She was universally adored,” Brady said more than 30 years after they graduated together. “No one ever had an ill word about Becky.”
He called Bibart a “peacemaker,” which lent a bitter irony to the violence that ended her life nine years ago last week. On Nov. 20, 2010, Bibart was murdered by her estranged husband, Richard, who then took his own life.
Brady said he remembers the story of Rebecca Patterson Bibart’s life and her tragic death. He aims to do whatever he can stop domestic violence.
And Brady – U.S. Attorney Scott Brady – can do plenty.
“It was like a gut punch,” he said of his reaction to Bibart’s death. “It’s one thing to know that domestic violence affects families forever. But it’s another thing to experience it personally.”
Brady, the top federal prosecutor for the Western District of Pennsylvania, said he has discussed the issue with local and federal law enforcement and said the U.S. Department of Justice “needs to do more.”
That process has already begun. Earlier this year, U.S. Attorney General William Barr formed a Domestic Violence Working Group within the Department of Justice. Brady said the working group will bring together resources on the state, local and federal levels, share best practices among law enforcement and increase federal prosecutions in domestic violence-related cases.
Most domestic violence prosecutions take place on the state, rather than the federal, level, but Brady said the working group’s formation marks a new dedication to address the matter in federal courts.
“We want to be respectful to our local partners,” Brady said. “But we’re asking, ‘Where is that inflection point when domestic violence is likely?’”
Again, Brady is accessing his personal experience with Bibart’s case. When Richard Bibart murdered his wife, the couple were in the process of getting a divorce. Splitting with an partner is one of the most dangerous points in any abusive relationship, Brady said.
He said Rebecca Patterson Bibart had been subjected to what Brady called “extensive emotional and psychological abuse” at the hands of her husband.
Brady said the Department of Justice can play a role in using cyber investigations to combat abuse, including online revenge porn, where a former intimate partner posts online sexually related images that were intended to be private.
The federal government can also play a role in removing a flashpoint – the presence of firearms – that can turn a violent domestic incident deadly. Brady cites studies that indicate that the presence of a weapon can increase the risk of a homicide by more than 500 percent.
Last year, the state government passed a law requiring that the subject of a final protection-from-abuse order is required to surrender all firearms to law enforcement. Brady said he advocates sharing information between state and federal authorities to ensure that known domestic abusers lose access to weapons.
Addressing domestic violence also serves another of the Department of Justice’s missions – supporting law enforcement.
“Domestic violence situations are among the most dangerous for law enforcement to encounter,” Brady said.
While the Department of Justice mandate applies to all of the federal prosecutors, Brady said the mission resonates on a personal level for him because of Rebecca Patterson Bibart, who was a cheerleader, as well as one of the top students in her graduating class at Greenville High School in 1987.
“Becky was always kind of the peacemaker in our class,” Brady said. “She was smart and kind and lit up every room she was in.”
Eric Poole writes for The (Sharon) Herald, which, like The Meadville Tribune, is owned by CNHI.