‘Leaving will get you killed faster.’ Woman’s death fits domestic abuse pattern, expert says

The abusive relationship between a Palmetto woman and the ex-boyfriend charged with killing her was a textbook example of the cases seen daily by law enforcement and domestic violence shelters.

Stephanie McNabb, 41, died early Sunday after police and family said her ex-boyfriend broke into her Palmetto home and shot her multiple times. Palmetto police say they were able to quickly find Flozell Murrell III and arrest him.

They had been a couple on and off for about 25 years. A protective injunction issued in 2002 ordering Murrell to stay away from McNabb was still in effect when he convinced her to return to the relationship recently, court records show.

McNabb again escaped his abuse just eight days before her death, telling family and reporting to the sheriff’s office how Murrell had beaten her and held her against her will for hours. Deputies had warrants for Murrell’s arrest when McNabb was killed early Sunday.

“There’s warrants out for his arrest because he just beat my sister up,” McNabb’s sister told a 911 dispatcher, according to a recording of the call. “He snuck in through the back door.”

Why don’t victims of abusive relationships just leave? It is a question HOPE Family Services Executive Director Laurel Lynch hears over and over again.

“Leaving will get you killed faster than staying in the relationship,” Lynch said. “I know people don’t like hearing that, but statistically that’s the truth.”

Sadly, Lynch said, this case was a textbook example.

In 2017, there were 2,432 cases of domestic violence reported to law enforcement in Manatee County, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s uniform crime report on domestic violence. That included three homicides.

The 911 call from McNabb’s home early Sunday captured the aftermath of what had happened.

McNabb was conscious but having difficulty telling her sister what happened other than Murrell had shot her. Her sister held a towel to a gunshot wound to her head.

“She’s got blood everywhere,” the victim’s sister said.

Flozell Murrell III broke into the Palmetto home of his former domestic partner and shot her multiple times, according to the Palmetto Police Department. Manatee County Sheriff's Office

Police were able to speak to McNabb before she was rushed to Blake Medical Center, where she later died.

Deaths as a result of domestic violence are reviewed by the Statewide Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team, put together by the Florida Office of the Attorney General and the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Using the data they collect during their review of those cases, the team puts out an annual report, Faces of Fatality.

Lynch is a member of the state-wide and local teams.

When she read about McNabb’s death, Lynch couldn’t help but notice how Murrell fit many of the common characteristics identified by the most recent Faces of Fatality issued in June 2018. According to the report:

  • 68 percent of perpetrators were known by families or friends to carry or possess a weapon.

  • 43 percent of decedents and perpetrators were separated at the time of the homicide.

  • 42 percent of perpetrators had known criminal history of domestic violence and in 52 percent of the fatalities.

  • 55 percent of perpetrators had a known criminal history of any kind.

  • In 55 percent of the fatalities, family members reported knowing about prior incidents or prior threats of domestic violence on the part of the perpetrator.

  • In 32 percent of the fatalities there was a known permanent civil injunction for protection filed against the perpetrator by the decedent.

  • In 19 percent of the cases there was a known permanent civil injunction for protection filed against the perpetrator by someone other than the decedent.

Lynch hopes that others who may in situations similar to McNabb’s will be encouraged to get help. The center typically sees an increase of victims seeking help after news of a domestic-related murder.

“We are the experts on domestic violence, but you are the expert on your partner,” Lynch said. “Together, pulling collective wisdom, we can come up with a safety plan together.”

Anyone who is a victim of domestic violence can call HOPE Family Services 24-hour help line at 941-755-6805. A live chat feature is now also available on their website,

Jessica De Leon has been covering crime, courts and law enforcement for the Bradenton Herald since 2013. She has won numerous awards for her coverage including the Florida Press Club’s Lucy Morgan Award for In-Depth Reporting in 2016 for her coverage into the death of 11-year-old Janiya Thomas.