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Public Advocate Against Domestic Violence Dies in Violent Fire

37-year-old Shannon Pepper, an outspoken public advocate for tougher laws to protect women from domestic abuse, recently died in a violent fire in her apartment this past weekend. A survivor of domestic violence herself (Pepper was brutally beaten into a coma in 2013 by her boyfriend), Pepper worked with prosecutors to put her attacker behind bars and continued to speak up for the protection of women even after the trial. Though investigators are still looking into the origins of the fire, no additional information has been released as whether the fire was intentional. Though several other people were injured, Pepper was the only person killed.

Her message, however, lives on: speak up and speak now. Attorneys cite Pepper's cooperation as a witness against her attacker as a key factor in the case. The district attorney called it the worst domestic case of domestic violence she had ever handled but because Pepper stood up to her accuser, he received a 20-year prison term which is the longest in the county for a nonfatal incident of domestic violence. Before her death, Pepper and her mother became outspoken advocates for a proposed domestic violence prevention law that would create a statewide registry of violent offenders. The proposed law is called "Brittany's Law" and is named after Brittany Passalacqua, 12, who was murdered in Geneva in 2009. Passalacqua and her mother, Helen Buchel, were stabbed to death by John Edward Brown.

The district attorney hopes that Pepper's death will inspire state legislators and crime victim advocates to work harder for the passage of Brittany's Law.

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