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Daughter announces tennis tournament at Holly Tree Racquet Club in memory of mother killed in domestic violence shooting

Rachel Knowles was beside her mother at her 12-year-old brother’s tennis practice the night her stepfather took Breault’s life and turned the gun on himself
Updated: Jan. 25, 2022 at 4:20 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Weeks after the shooting that shook the entire town, the daughter of MaryAnn Breault, who was killed by her husband at Holly Tree Racquet Club, is using her mother’s story to create real change in the community.

Rachel Knowles was beside her mother at her 12-year-old brother’s tennis practice the night her stepfather took Breault’s life and turned the gun on himself, however she is choosing to return to the tennis courts this March for a good cause.

From her home in Kentucky, Knowles organized a tennis tournament, called “Raise A Racquet to Domestic Violence” to raise funds for Domestic Violence Shelter and Services Inc. in Wilmington and spread awareness of the issue of domestic violence. A bench will also be installed at the tennis club to memorialize Breault.

“She was a beautiful soul, such a light in this world who always made everyone feel welcome and warm and wanted, and the world feels a little darker without her in it,” said her daughter, Rachel Knowles. “I know that we’re going to be okay because we are our mom’s kids and we’re strong because of her.”

Knowles describes Breault as a loving mother of three. MaryAnn Breault was known for her cooking, dancing in the kitchen, and loving the people in her life deeply.

She hopes sharing her mother’s story will spur change and help the next person who finds themselves in a situation similar to hers.

“It’s so hard to summarize a person’s life that you cared so deeply for, it was your whole world, and that was my mom,” said Knowles. “I don’t blame the system, I don’t blame anybody for what happened except for my stepfather because that was all him, it was his choice. Obviously, he was a very sick person. Somehow the signs were missed, so I think it’s important to raise awareness of those gaps and find ways — constructive ways — to help so the next person who’s in this type of situation doesn’t have the same ending that my mom had.”

A history of abuse

Knowles says the ambush at the tennis court on December 7, 2021, happened after she and her mother endured years of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her stepfather.

“It was an excessively aggressive environment, where you wouldn’t know what was going to set him off from one day to the next,” said Knowles. “He was the one who made us feel small, and she was the one who got between us, even though things would be turned on her. She protected us and tried so hard to fix the relationship.”

Breault was trying to leave the relationship; however in North Carolina, to file for a divorce, couples must live separately for a year.

Her daughter says she was doing everything right, taking the proper channels, calling law enforcement when she didn’t feel safe going home. The officer told her the best course of action would be to file a domestic violence protection order the next day, however Breault’s husband arrived at the courthouse before her and filed one first.

The daughter believes having resources available to victims of domestic violence is an important part of the equation, and that real change should be happening on the legislative level as well, to prevent alleged abusers from filing protection orders in retaliation, or allowing guns in homes with a history of domestic abuse.

Despite going through all of the proper steps, the system couldn’t protect the family when Knowles’ stepfather made the choice to take MaryAnn Breault’s life in front of countless families at Holly Tree Racquet Club.

Breault didn’t see it coming, and Knowles says her stepdad didn’t say anything before he fired the shots.

“He left me alive to see that. That wasn’t mercy, that was cruelty. That’s the cruelty that this person had; he knew how much love we had for each other, and he wanted me to have to live with that. But that’s why I refuse to give up, because my mom would not want that. And I refuse to give this person the satisfaction of having his cruelty seen through,” said Knowles. “My love for my mother is stronger than my hate toward this person who took her from me.”

If you or anyone you know is in need of help because of domestic violence, you can find your nearest agency here on the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence website.

The tennis tournament is scheduled for March 4-6 at Holly Tree Racquet Club.

Registration is open now here and information on how to get involved can be found here.

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