Over four years of what she describes as her boyfriend’s increasingly violent behavior, police have filed 35 reports.

On a warm Saturday night in July, about 50 graduates of Chisholm High’s class of ’96 gathered at Valentini’s Supper Club. Under the glow of fairy lights, surrounded by balloons and the sweeping fresco of some Italian villa, they mingled with beers and reminisced about high school reputations.

Some had driven up from the Twin Cities. Others had remained in this small north country town of 5,000. Shannon Jarvis arrived alone.

She’s a scrappy, five-foot-two woman with a nervy voice and choppy hair that looks like she styled it herself, with haste. She’d missed the event the day before — an ATV race through abandoned taconite mines — and hadn’t RSVP’ed for the dinner. Her oversized sunglasses only partially hid an ugly spread of deep maroon bruises, a purple nose, and an upper lip scored with dried blood.

As the night progressed and the party migrated to Tom and Jerry’s bar, Jarvis’ sunglasses came off. She explained that her injuries were the work of her on-again, off-again boyfriend. Alternating between blaming her own stupidity for staying with him and a determined effort to drink, forget, and have a good time, she nonetheless echoed a despondent refrain:

He’s going to kill me. The cops won’t do anything. No one can help me.

Jarvis’ story elicited uncomfortable sympathy from her former classmates. They said they weren’t familiar with her situation. Nor did they really know her boyfriend, Craig Champa, other than that he’s the nephew of former Chisholm Mayor John Champa. They weren’t prepared, several drinks in, to dive deep into a domestic history that is long, complex, and convoluted. It sure looked bad, but it was none of anyone’s business.

-Susan Du / City Pages

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