WORCESTER, Mass. — A court recording exclusively obtained by 25 Investigates reveals Amanda Dabrowski, the woman killed at O'Connor's Restaurant in July, tried desperately to protect herself from her ex-boyfriend, the man now accused of killing her.
Two months before she was stabbed to death in front of diners at the popular Worcester restaurant, Dabrowski sought a restraining order against Carlos Asencio, a co-worker she dated for only a couple of months and who, according to court records, she suspected tried to kill her during a violent home invasion in the early hours of Easter Sunday.
Within hours of that attack, police records show, Asencio fled to Canada and boarded a flight to Mexico.
During a May 2 hearing in Ayer District Court, Dabrowski repeatedly told Judge Margaret Guzman she feared for her safety.
"I want to make it clear to the court that I feel as long as he is not in custody that there is an element of danger," she told the judge. "I want to say I did everything in my power to protect myself."
Judge Guzman granted the restraining order though she initially questioned its enforceability given that Asencio was out of the country and could not be served.
"I'm not meaning to suggest that you are not worthy, or that it doesn't meet the standard," Guzman said. "But what is the point?"
Dabrowski told the judge that she felt she was in danger and wanted protection.
"I don't have a problem issuing an order," added Guzman. "If it can't be served, it's unenforceable."
An emotional Dabrowski then told the judge she wanted to take every step necessary to ensure her safety.
"I want to do everything in my power to keep myself safe from this monster," said Dabrowski.
OCTOBER IS NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS MONTH
National Network to End Domestic Violence
Love is Respect (services for teens and youth)
Women's Law (legal information for survivors of all genders available in English and Spanish) www.womenslaw.org
Judge Guzman issued the order for 30 days and requested that it be added it to the Statewide Domestic Violence Record Keeping System, a database of individuals convicted of domestic violence-related crimes. That would have alerted state authorities to notify Dabrowski of Asencio's return to Massachusetts.
The day of the murder, however, neither Dabrowski nor authorities were aware that Asencio had returned. The Department of Homeland Security says it is investigating how and when he managed to get back into the country undetected.
That May hearing, however, highlights the emotional process victims must endure to get a restraining order against their abusers.
"For many survivors, this is the first time or the first step that they are taking in terms of speaking out about what they've experienced," said Katherine Schulte, the managing attorney with Casa Myrna, a Boston-based agency that works with survivors of domestic violence.
Schulte was not involved in the Dabrowski case. She says that while restraining orders are an important first step for victims, they have their limits.
"For many survivors, it's an extremely effective tool to get physical separation, physical distance and to reduce or prevent contact with the abuser," she added. "Whatever steps they do take, at the end of the day, they don't have control over the abuser's actions."
Despite being out of the country, Asencio continued to harass Dabrowski, sending her threatening emails on two separate occasions, according to police records. Both times Dabrowski personally went to the police department to report the emails.
Victoria Dabrowski, the younger of the two sisters, told 25 Investigates' Kerry Kavanaugh that despite the restraining order and authorities repeatedly telling her that Asencio was still in Mexico, her older sister simply could not stop feeling scared and constantly lived in fear.
"In the back of her mind she knew that something was going to happen at some point," she said.
On July 3rd, as Amanda Dabrowski was attempting to get on with her life, her worst fears came to pass. Asencio, who had managed to sneak back into the country, tracked her down at O'Connor's Restaurant where she was attending a book club meeting, and repeatedly stabbed her in front of diners.