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Yvonne Abraham

Real life more chaotic, terrifying than a court document

Phillip E. Carrington was seen in a courtroom earlier this week.
Phillip E. Carrington was seen in a courtroom earlier this week.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

She was not alone, although it might have felt that way in her most awful moments.

Celestine Walker, a mother of nine, was loved by her grown kids, but they worried. They knew her onetime boyfriend Phillip E. Carrington was a brute, that he was abusing her — even though Walker told them he wasn’t.

She used makeup to cover the marks he left on her, but she fooled no one. They knew, and they despised him for it. In court on Tuesday, a witness testified that she had seen Carrington beat Walker and begin to strangle her.

Though she didn’t say it, Walker, 47, was clearly afraid of Carrington. The restraining orders tell the story, their abbreviated matter-of-factness haunting now.

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Refrain from abuse. No contact stay away at least 100 yds. Surrender guns, ammo.

She took out the first one in August of 2010 but didn’t renew it after 10 days. She obtained another in March of 2013. But by May, prosecutors say, Carrington was back in Walker’s apartment at the Bromley Heath housing development in Jamaica Plain.

She let him in. We have seen this so nauseatingly often. Why go to the trouble of getting a restraining order if you’re going to disregard it? Why would you let somebody who hurt you back into your life?

Because real life is more chaotic, and more terrifying, than a court document. An abuser’s hold on his victim defies reason and mocks the will. Built on promises and some perversion of love, strengthened through dependency and isolation, hardened by fear, it is all too often unshakable. Poverty, and a culture where abuse isn’t talked about, compounds a victim’s powerlessness.

Besides, Carrington was an accomplished abuser.

Two others took out multiple restraining orders against him between 1993 and 2000, requiring him to stay away from their homes and workplaces, to refrain from abuse.

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Clearly, Carrington was not the kind of man who would refrain from abuse just because a court instructed him to.

It’s unlikely Walker felt she had any choice but to allow Carrington back into her apartment just a couple of months after taking out that second restraining order in 2013.

She was last seen alive on May 11.

On Mother’s Day, May 12, one of her kids tried to visit, but Walker didn’t open her door. On May 13, prosecutors say, a neighbor saw Carrington leaving her apartment.

Three days later, public housing police and maintenance workers found Walker’s body lying on her living room floor, covered with a sheet. Because of the condition her body was in, it took four months to determine how she had died: strangulation.

Thirteen others in Massachusetts died at the hands of current or former partners that year, two others in May alone, according to numbers collected by Jane Doe Inc.

In court this week, where Carrington is being tried on murder charges, his attorney outlined a defense that paints an even bleaker picture of Walker’s life than the prosecution does.

Yes, Carrington abused Walker, the attorney conceded. But he wasn’t the only one who wanted to hurt her, or the one who killed her. In a call recorded when Carrington was serving time in jail on unrelated charges, Walker said: “Everyone wants to disrespect me now that you’re gone. They want to dog me. And when I won’t go to bed with them, they want to choke me.”

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Even if it’s true that others threatened her, it doesn’t mean Carrington is innocent. A witness put him at the scene of the crime, and prosecutors say his alibi doesn’t hold up.

But Lord, if it is true, what a heartbreaking revelation — that a woman could be so abused, so powerless, that she’d see a monster like Carrington as her protector.


Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham can be reached at yvonne.abraham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeAbraham.