Cynthia Galens is a survivor of three abusive relationships, including two marriages. The third relationship ended in the death of Kevin Stack, for which she is serving a sentence of 23 years. Cynthia acknowledges that she poisoned Kevin after he had threatened her life and the life of her young daughter. Her intent was for him to be taken to the hospital , so she could make her escape. She expresses tremendous heartfelt remorse for her action which resulted in his death. Cynthia is 60 years old and uses a cane after a knee replacement. She will be eligible for parole in 2030, at the age of 72.
Prior to this incident, Cynthia had never had any contact with the criminal justice system. She grew up in a small town and received an AA degree in graphic arts, and then worked for the Veterans Administration for 29 years. By 2004, she had been married and divorced twice (spanning 23 years) and had two children. Both marriages were characterized by abuse – physical violence in the first one and severe emotional and mental abuse in the second. Cynthia suffered years of abuse, and knew nothing else in domestic relationships. In 2005, she lost her son, then 19, to a drug overdose. She and her daughter, then 14, struggled alone to cope with this unthinkable loss. In her own words, against her better judgment and during a time of extreme dysfunction, she began a relationship with Kevin Stack who was being treated for substance use and psychiatric issues at the VA Hospital where she worked. She invited him into their lives and their home. Kevin physically, verbally, and emotionally abused her 14 year old daughter. She did what any mother would do — go to any length to protect her child’s life, after he told her “I’m going to show your daughter what it feels like to be hurt by a man”. She knew Kevin was serious about hurting her daughter after he showed up outside her school. Two months later, he told her “You’ll never be rid of me”. Despite numerous attempts to seek assistance, the restraining orders were ultimately dropped when she didn’t cooperate fully with law enforcement. She did not want him to be incarcerated, she just wanted him to be unable to hurt her family. She admits that she poisoned him in the hopes that he would become sick and have to be removed from the home so she could escape with her daughter.
After Kevin died, Cynthia was arrested and charged with killing him. She chose to go to trial and took the stand to testify on her own behalf. Testimony by others as to Kevin’s abuse was not allowed by the Judge, and she was portrayed as a violent murderer who planned to kill Kevin and let him die a terrible death. This is an inaccurate portrayal of Cynthia who visited Kevin in the hospital until his family decided it was time to let him go.
Cynthia has been in prison since 2010. In that time her daughter has become a grown woman with a successful marriage, and Cynthia is the proud grandmother to two grandsons. The separation from her family, especially given the loss of her son many years ago, has been traumatic for all. Cynthia and her daughter remain close, but the prison is a five hour drive from their hometown and it’s difficult for the family to visit more than once or twice a year. Since being in prison, Cynthia has engaged in all programs that are available — Alternatives to Violence, Parenting Through Film, and an Inmate Program Associate Program helping others to prepare for their GED’s. She works as the School Principal’s Academic Clerk and is currently in therapy, where she learns more about domestic violence and abusive relationships. When she’s not at work or therapy she spends her time in her cell creating beautiful artwork. After her release, her goals are to be with her loving family, with whom she is very close, and to be an advocate for other domestic violence survivors. She has learned a lot about how abusive relationships work and how to avoid them in the future. Currently, her earliest possible release date will be when she is 72 years old, but with a reduction in her sentence, she can once again be a part of her family and her community.