NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The family of a Madison woman found dead in her apartment feels as though the system failed them, saying that the man accused of killing her violated an order of protection.

Steven Cosby, 53, was arrested for the fourth time in six years on Wednesday, Sept. 6. He allegedly attacked Brooke Howard, 41, multiple times over the years, but this time, she didn’t survive.

According to the Metro Nashville Police Department, Brooke’s body was discovered in her unit at the 333 complex on Gallatin Pike South on Tuesday, Sept. 5. Detectives believe she died as the result of blunt force trauma.

“I have 100% guarantee who I know did it,” Brooke’s son, Brandon Howard, told News 2 hours before Cosby turned himself in at the Downtown Detention Center.

Brooke’s friends even called investigators following the news of her death, confident that they knew who killed Brooke.

“I had my suspicions about who it was,” said Vanessa Sullivan.

Cosby was reportedly known for abusing Howard. Police offered the following details about his criminal history:

  • An arrest for domestic assault against Howard in 2017 led to a sentence of 11 months and 29 days.
  • An arrest for domestic violence against Howard in 2018 led to a sentence of three years.
  • An arrest for aggravated assault and order of protection violation in 2019 led to a sentence of six years.

“It’s not fair, it’s wrong,” said Sullivan, adding that Brooke’s death could have been prevented. 

Brooke’s loved ones pointed out that Cosby shouldn’t have been on the streets and that Brooke took legal action to keep him away.

It’s a story that the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic & Sexual Violence often hears.

“In each case, often everything was done right by all the people involved, and it still falls through the cracks,” said Jennifer Esque, CEO of the coalition.

While an order of protection does provide legal remedies for survivors whose abusers come around or contact them, at the end of the day, an order of protection is a piece of paper, according to James Widrig, an attorney who specializes in family law

“It is a court order that, unfortunately, some people choose to ignore,” explained Widrig. 

As was the case Wednesday morning in Old Hickory, where authorities said another man accused of being a serial abuser was shot in the head by his ex-girlfriend, who claimed self-defense. Police said the woman filed an order of protection against him last year, but just a few months ago, he was arrested for violating it.

“It’s completely sad that the law does not protect the person after time and time again, which is why at this point we need something more done,” said Widrig. 

He went on to suggest an ankle monitor or GPS tracking device on violators as a way to further protect victims. The coalition pushed to pass a similar bill, but Esque said it failed, with costs being an issue.

“Really what we need is the whole community to stop looking at domestic violence like a private family problem and get involved in it, get involved in educating, get involved in watching out for the signs in their loved ones, providing support to the loved ones that are dealing with it,” Esque explained. “We need our lawmakers looking at what are the laws that protect survivors.” 

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If you are a victim of abuse, Esque said the best move you can make to protect yourself is to involve others.

Meanwhile, the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic & Sexual Violence offers a number of resources for domestic violence survivors. For more information, click here.