By Joel Thomas, CBS 11 News

ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – Domestic abuse and murder victim Kimberly Carter’s family says they feel Officer Jillian Smith should be remembered as a hero.

Police say Officer Smith shielded Carter’s 11-year old daughter from gunfire when Carter’s ex-boyfrind barged into Carter’s apartment and started shooting while Smith took a domestic violence complaint from Carter.  The 11-year old escaped.

Police say the shooter, 38-year old Barnes Nettles killed Smith, Carter then himself.

But Carter’s family hopes she’s remembered too, as a loving mother and as a lesson for persons in abusive relationships.

Carter’s parents say she dated Nettles in Washington state before they moved to North Texas so Carter could be closer to her Mansfield family.  Her Parents say Nettles was abusive throughout the relationship, but Carter wouldn’t leave him.

“She thought he could change,” said Leah Richardson, Carter’s stepmother.  “She thought he would change and she was trying to give him that chance. I knew he wouldn’t.”

“I tried to talk to her to get rid of him,” said Willie Richardson, Carter’s Father  “Her life would be better off without him. We ended up having to get a new apartment for her to get away from him.”

But Nettles made appearances at the apartment complex. At one point, Carter’s stepmother says, he assaulted her on the stairs outside Carter’s new apartment.

“He just flat out said he was going to kill me, my daughter and my husband — with a smile on his face — and he walked off,” said Leah Richardson.

The Richardson’s say it was only after they’d learned about Nettle’s multiple convictions in Washington state for assault, burglary, and rape of a child that Carter was moved to action. Carter was, after all, the mother of an 11-year old girl.

“From his record, from his previous relationship, I don’t even think counseling would have helped him,” said Leah Richardson.  “He was a menace to society. He was done.”

The family hopes the tragic, deadly ending to their story will be a lesson to anyone in an abusive relationship.

“Get out,” Leah Richardson advises abuse victimes.  “I know its hard for some people but your life is more important. Your life is more important. We lost a daughter. The other family lost a daughter. My granddaughter lost her mother. For love.”

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