In 2004, Vernetta Cockerham filed suit against the Jonesville Police Department and officers Scott Vestal and Timothy Lee Gwyn. The lawsuit stemmed from the murder of Cockerham's teenage daughter by her stepfather, Richard Ellerbee, during the early morning hours of Nov. 19, 2002.
In her lawsuit, Vernetta Cockerham claimed the Jonesville Police Department did not enforce protective orders placed on Ellerbee. She also claimed the department was aware her estranged husband had threatened to kill her and her children.
Those allegations remain disputed.
In a statement released from the Jonesville Police Department following yesterday's settlement, "The Town of Jonesville believes that the officers named in the suit did nothing wrong. The resolution of this case admits no wrongdoing on the part of the Town nor its' officers."
Terms of the settlement have not been immediately released.
Vestal still works with the Jonesville Police Department, while Gwyn does not.
"The settlement of this case (Tuesday), for a substantial and undisclosed amount, gives (Cockerham) a measure of justice and allows her to move forward with her life," said Cockerham's attorney, Harvey Kennedy, of the law firm Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy and Kennedy, in a statement released to the media.
Kennedy identified the officers named in the lawsuit.
On the morning of Nov. 19, Ellerbee again broke Cockerham's house and the only person home was Candice Cockerham, 17, a senior at Starmount High School. Two younger children were not in the house. One was in school, the other in daycare.
"(Ellerbee) hit her in the head three times with a hammer," said Kennedy. "Then he suffocated her with duct tape."
According to the Nov. 20 edition of The Tribune, Candice Cockerham had been stabbed to death.
Kennedy said that Ellerbee then waited for Vernetta Cockerham to return home. When she did, he attacked her with a knife, and severed her carotid artery.
Also in the Nov. 20 edition of The Tribune, it was not certain what weapon was used in the attack, whether it was a knife or a sharpened piece of broken glass from a mirror.
"Somehow, she managed to escape and run to the police department, where she collapsed," said Kennedy.
At the time, the police department was located at 140 W. Main, a block away from where she lived, at 231 W. Main St.
Ellerbee fled to New Jersey, where it was believed he had relatives. Several days later, he died after dousing himself with gasoline and setting himself on fire.
According to Kennedy, on earlier occasions, Cockerham had several domestic violence protective orders from the court served against her then-estranged husband. In an article in The Tribune from Nov. 20, 2002, the relationship between Cockerham and Ellerbee was marked with a history of domestic violence. According to Kennedy, on one occasion, Ellerbee broke into Cockerham's home and stole some coins. He also left her a threatening note.
The last six months leading up to the November incident were particularly violent. As recently as Sept. 11, 2002, Ellerbee pled guilty to assault with a deadly weapon and assault on a female after attacking her with a baseball bat. He was given a 60-day suspended sentence and 36 months probation.
Six days before the murder, another restraining order was served on Ellerbee, because he had communicated a threat that he would kill her (Cockeram) "... before it was over."
In each instance, Cockerham went to the police in an effort to get him arrested, said Kennedy.
"He should have been arrested, especially after he attacked her with a baseball bat, but he wasn't," said Kennedy.
Yet Cockerham bears no animus toward the Jonesville Police Department.
"It comes down to education. We need to be attentive (to domestic violence)," she said. "We want the best of the best for our community, don't we?"
It isn't only attitude, said Cockerham, it's resources; and it is not just resources, either. She pointed out other communities that have tapped into resources available at both the state and federal level.
"The resources are there," she said. "Why aren't they being utilized?"
Still, the past years have been difficult, but they have also been tempered.
"I think of my grandmother at age 81, and of growing up in Jonesville," she said. "I was also encouraged by the show of support (through the wearing of ribbons) for Candice and for all domestic violence victims."
Cockerham has become more active in helping other victims of domestic violence. She said part of the settlement will be directed toward that aim.
Still, despite the forgiveness, there is a tinge.
"Yes, I'm infuriated," she said.
But she is putting that raw emotion to positive use.
"I have to take it out on trying to fix it (domestic violence)," said Cockerham.
Editor's note: Information for this article was also provided by news partner WXII-12 in Winston-Salem, and courtesy of newscaster Mac Ingraham with WFMY-TV, in Greensboro.