HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- A family is dealing with the brutal tragedy of their loved one being murdered -- a horror that they believe is a result of a failed legal system.
42-year-old Michael Thurston, Sr. is accused of killing his estranged wife , and her family points out that he had racked up more than two dozen domestic violence charges in a year -- yet was somehow still a free man until Friday.
Those charges are reflected in at least seven different mug shots of Thurston, from domestic violence involving strangulation, to violating protective orders. His most recent mugshot is now for a second-degree murder charge.
Crime Insider sources said 35-year-old Tabitha Inge, the suspect’s estranged wife and mother of two of his children, was trying to leave and seeking advice from others in search of an escape route.
In a voicemail obtained by CBS 6, Thurston warns someone the couple knew not to get involved in their relationship. CBS 6 sent the audio to a local domestic violence expert, who said the recorded call was laced with red flags.
"She's my wife, she's at my house, so at the end of the day, no matter what you say to her…” the voice on the audio recording says. “Just so you know she's number one in my life. Right now, whether we are together or not together, no matter what. I don't give a ---- what you tell her, I'm telling you nothing she does will make me not love her,” the voice says,
The expert noted Thurston's repeated use of the word "my" in the message shows how possessive and potentially dangerous the suspect could be.
"Domestic violence victims, they're in danger.” said crime expert Steve Neal. “They need to take whatever legal action they can to try and remove themselves from that situation because if they stay, the likelihood of getting hurt or killed is very high."
Crime Insider sources said the voice message was just hours before Henrico Police went to do a welfare check Friday at the request of Thurston's brother and found Inge inside a bedroom of her Holland Street home, bloodied and beaten to death.
Sources said her young kids were home at the time of the killing.
"You can only imagine these children witnessing what took place with their mother and the psychological impact it'll have on them or what they may learn from the situation,” said Neal. “It scares me to death."
Crime Insider sources said crisis intervention and county mental health experts had recommended that Thurston should stay in custody after a previous arrest, but he was still let go. CBS 6 is working to find out the events leading up to his previous release.
For now, Thurston is still being held at Henrico County Jail is connection to Inge's murder.