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Survivors of abuse behind bars

By Lisa Brody
News Editor
(click for larger version)
08/22/2017 - Just one week before Karen Kantzler married her husband in the early 1980s, Dr. Paul Kantzler, a radiologist at Henry Ford Hospital, he performed his weekly refrigerator check for spoilage.

"He found some lettuce that had wilted, and I laughed. I thought it was humorous," Karen Kantzler recounted in a voice so quiet it was difficult to hear during a prison visit with her in July 2017. "He had a fit. He slammed the lettuce on the counter and started jumping up and down and waiving his arms like a little boy. I started giggling and he rushed to me and picked me up and slammed me down on the slate floor, across the living room. I rammed into an overstuffed chair. The whole side of me all the way was bruised. It was the first major physical attack.

"Before, he would always grab me at the neck by my clothing, and push me against a wall, a tree, bamming me against it, and that would escalate. (Eventually) it became weekly, then every few days, then daily."

The physical and emotional abuse continued until March 11, 1987, when Karen killed Paul.

Police and prosecutors alleged she shot him while he slept in their bed. Karen asserted it was self-defense, after a day and night of drinking and drug abuse by Paul, which led to hours of continual verbal abuse, including at a neighborhood restaurant, culminating in him yelling at her during the drive home.

"I came into the bedroom. He was in bed," she recalled. "I said, 'Can't we just talk things out not go to bed angry.' He called me a moron. 'I'm just going to take care of you before morning, and you're going to be gone,'" she said he told her. "That scared me. I knew that meant he was going to kill me."

Karen said she went into their TV room, sipped on a vodka and lemonade, and heard him call her name. She waited to go into the bedroom, "but I got so tired and sleepy, and I went to the bedroom door. He was standing there with a gun in his hand and he grabbed me by my clothes at the neck and pulled me. It happened so fast I pushed him as he was grabbing me. I think he tripped on a little rug, and he fell on the bed and dropped the gun. I grabbed the gun, and it went off, and I shot him.

"I didn't mean to shoot him."

Over the years Karen had spent with Paul, he beat her, broke her ribs, tried to cut off her finger, ruptured her spleen in a motorcycle accident, tried to drown her, caused her to miscarry, held guns to her head, left her blind in one eye and with permanent tremors and shakes from repeated beatings, demeaned her over and over again, and threatened her life.

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