Deborah Jones sensed she was in danger. The Sugar House woman went so far as to contact police after ending her relationship with Michael Doyel. Salt Lake police say she believed Doyel may have been using her credit cards fraudulently, but there was no evidence — at that juncture — of physical abuse. Doyel had made harassing phone calls and, later, calls of a threatening nature, police said.

Police arranged for Jones to obtain a stalking civil injunction protective order but she didn't show up for the meeting. Police say Jones, whose body was discovered Monday in a plastic storage box in her car outside a Branson, Mo., motel, was reported missing on Saturday. Police say the 50-year-old woman died of asphyxiation and may have been dead three or four days. Doyel was taken into custody along with a West Valley woman, whom Doyel is accused of kidnapping from an adult living center to Missouri. A California court had deemed that woman, Patricia Murray, incompetent to care for herself. Meanwhile, Doyel, whom family members say suffers from mental illness, is being held in lieu of $1 million bond in Missouri.

Jones' instinct to report Doyel's alleged conduct to police was the right thing to do. Regrettably, she did not obtain a protective order, although it is unclear at this juncture the series of events between her initial contact with police, her family reporting her missing Saturday and the discovery of her body in Missouri.

Obtaining a protective order exposes the threatened or battered person to heightened risk, initially. But over time the incidence of violence drops dramatically once the order is granted. We hope Jones' death will not deter other battered or threatened people from seeking help from police and attorneys who can help them.

Beyond a legal order, battered or threatened people need to take steps to enhance their safety. They need to develop an escape plan by setting aside money and prescription medicines, and finding a safe house.

Obtaining a protective order also connects the battered or terrorized person to community resources that provide shelter, child care and counseling.

Sadly, it appears that domestic violence has claimed the life another Utah woman. Hopefully, other battered persons will not view these events as an excuse not to seek help. If anything, it should prompt them to reach out before the violence in their lives escalates further.