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Mom aims to save lives affected by domestic violence

Tammy Willett's daughter, Brandi Bates-Kubos, was murdered on Thanksgiving 2010 by her boyfriend before he turned the gun on himself.
Tammy Willette
Posted at 10:27 AM, Oct 31, 2023

CORPUS CHRISTI — “Brandi was my beautiful child who spent most of her teenage years looking in the mirror fixing her hair and her makeup,” Tammy Willett said.

Willett couldn’t help but smile as she looked at pictures of her daughter Brandi Bates-Kubos on her computer.

“My husband holding her when she was 10 days old,” Willett pointed at one picture of her current husband, a friend at the time, holding her daughter.

Unfortunately, Brandi didn’t live past the age of 22.

“We’re not wired to bury our children,” Willette said.

Willett said on Thanksgiving of 2010, Brandi and her boyfriend got into an argument while drinking at a bar in Giddings, Texas.

Brandi had moved in with her boyfriend three weeks before and had totaled her car.

Willett said Brandi became completely reliant on her boyfriend, but her dad lived close to her work, so she was planning on moving in with him.

“We believe that she told him that night,” Willett said.

She said it didn’t go well.

“I believe in my heart that he knew, if she moved out, she wasn’t coming back,” Willett said.

“Brandi would go outside,” Willett explained what she found out during the police’s investigation. “She was crying. He would go out and get her and this went on for several hours.”

Willett said the bartender and even a couple of Brandi’s boyfriend’s family members offered to take her home but were threatened by her boyfriend.

“As soon as they were leaving the parking lot that night, Robert pulled a gun from under the seat, put it to Brandi’s head and pulled the trigger,” Willett said. “He drove right passed the hospital. He didn’t bother to stop.”

According to a police report, Brandi’s boyfriend tried to crash his truck into his house before taking her body inside. He then called his best friend Josh and said he couldn’t find his cigar lighter.

“Then he told Josh ‘I’m gonna go. I’m gonna go be with Brandi,’ He found his lighter,” Willett said. “(He) laid on top of Brandi and took his own life.”

According to the Violence Policy Center, 72 percent of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner and 94 percent of them are women.

“By 11 o’clock at night, I had a knock on my door that my daughter was dead,” Willett said.

“We had to have her cremated,” Willett said. “We had to finish what he started and that’s, that’ll probably eat at me for eternity.”

Willett said he didn’t recognize the red flags until her daughter was already gone.

“She didn’t tell me that there was any kind of abuse,” Willett said.

She said Brandi and her boyfriend were on and off for a year and whenever Brandi was upset, she would call her mom to come over and watch Disney movies with her.

“And she said ‘Ugh, he’s driving by again,” Willett recalled what her daughter had told her. “I didn’t view this 13 years ago as stalking…He talked to his mother disgustingly. Called her horrible cuss words. I wish I could have told her if a man doesn’t respect his mother, run baby because he’s not ever, he’s not capable of respecting you.”

Willett said she’s no stranger to domestic abuse.

“It took me, my niece asking me, ‘why are you always sharing Brandi’s story without ever sharing your own story of survival.”

Brandi was a teenager when her mom married her first husband.

“He would hold my head down into a pillow so the kids couldn’t hear me yell and punch me in the back of my head so he wouldn’t leave bruises,” Willett said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 20 people in the U.S. a minute are physically abused by an intimate partner.

“It escalated to the point of me fighting back and saying ‘no more,” Willett said. “You’re not going to hit me again.’ We left and we left with a safety plan.”

Willett never explained what she went through to her children.

“We should have talked about it,” Willett said. “I should have told them why we’re leaving this way. Why we have to go at night. Why we need to not say anything.”

A regret she never forgot.

“I had to admit that I felt guilty for surviving and Brandi didn’t,” Willett said.

A couple of years after Brandi’s death, Willett moved to Corpus Christi still coping with the loss of her daughter.

“Alzheimer’s kind of runs in my family and what if I get so old that I forget her,” Willett said. “Who is going to remember her when I’m gone?”

Soon she found Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence, a national non-profit organization.

“They gave me that safe space and there were other families,” Willett said.

The non-profit provides retreats and other resources for legacy families, which are families who have had a loved one die or suffer from domestic violence.

“They encouraged me, and they held my hand and led me out of that dark place that I had been in for two years,” Willett said. “And they gave me hope.”

Willett advises people to reach out to an organization like hers for help, have a plan and to not be ashamed because it’s never the victim or survivor’s fault.

“Nothing I say or do is going to bring them back, but it gives me hope. Hope to save someone else’s Brandi,” Willett said.

If you know someone who is being abused or you, find yourself in a domestic violence situation, call Break the Silence Against Domestic ViolenceHotline at 1-855-287-1777 or The Purple Door at 361-881-8888.

Both non-profits accept donations to continue their missions to help families affected by abuse.