Remembering Bertha McDonald

Bertha McDonald, 42, died April 28, 1980 in Corinth, Mississippi.  She was shot by her abusive husband in front of her 6 year-old son as she was attempting to get herself and her children out of the home.   While her husband was acquitted of her murder by claiming self-defense and discrediting the 6 year-old witness, that witness, Pastor Kim Ratliff, tells the harrowing story of the night his mother died in a poignant article on  Pastor overcomes childhood trauma of domestic violence


“She came home from her job on second shift and got us up,” Ratliff recalled.  “She was taking us to his mother, the only person who could talk to him.  “She said ‘Run, he’s got the gun,’ and my sister ran out the laundry room door.  Mama and I ducked into the living room and hid behind a curio cabinet.  When she heard the door slam she thought he had gone outside too, but when she went in the hall he was there.  He hit her in the head with the gun and threw her on the floor.  He shot once in the air, then he shot her.”  Ratliff was standing right there when it happened…

…He watched Darryl McDonald drag his mother’s body through the dining room and into the kitchen, watched him smear his mother’s hand in her own blood then take that hand and smear the blood on the refrigerator door.
“He had me call his mom and told me to tell her my Mama had killed herself, but what came out was ‘Darryl killed Mama,’” Ratliff said.
From there Darryl McDonald dragged his wife’s body to the car and propped her up in the front seat, with Ratliff sitting behind trying to wake her up.  They drove to Magnolia Hospital, where she was pronounced dead before being removed from the vehicle.

Pastor Radcliff, who is now happily married with a son of his own, closes his story with this:

“Women with children in abusive households need to think about what would happen to their children if something happened to them, the children’s weddings they’ll miss, grandchildren’s births, future Christmases, graduations,” Ratliff said, emotion clogging his voice.  “My Mama can rest knowing that I’m all right, but I wouldn’t want any other child to go through that.”

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