Some blog commenters have questioned whether Tony Villegas, the man charged with killing attorney Melissa Britt Lewis in 2008, was really as angry and abusive as his estranged wife, Debra, claimed.
But police documents and New Times interviews suggest that close friends and relatives of Melissa were aware of Tony's alleged violence before Melissa died.
Take Jon Holmberg, who in 2008 was the fiancé of Melissa's sister, Carrie Fisher. When he spoke to Plantation police detectives
in March 2008, he mentioned one conversation that brought his attention to the problem.
He said he spent Thanksgiving and Christmas 2007 at Melissa's house in Plantation. One day during the holidays, he overheard Melissa telling Carrie about Tony (Debra was not present at the time). Melissa said Tony had threatened to set Debra on fire.
Frightened by the threat, Debra bought a Taser, and Melissa bought Mace, Holmberg remembered Melissa saying.
"And I told her she should have got a gun," Holmberg told police in a sworn interview.
That was Holmberg's only knowledge of Tony's alleged threat. When police asked Debra why she and Melissa decided to arm themselves with a Taser and Mace, she responded vaguely.
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"Well, for me I got a Taser because my, you know, my husband... he's not an ex-husband yet, but he doesn't, you know, whatever."
"OK," responded the detective, who had not yet heard the allegations about Tony's abuse.
"I got it for that purpose, and because I'm single for the first time in 20 years," Debra continued. "And I've been going out places, and I'm a little nervous out by myself. So I got it and she got it to feel safe."
When Melissa disappeared, police discovered pepper-spray stains in the garage of her home, indicating that she had struggled with her attacker.