IN JANUARY 2012, Candida Mulligan, a police dispatcher, wrote a letter to Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey about Lt. George Holcombe, her ex-boyfriend and the father of two of her children.
She outlined her fears that Holcombe might commit violence against her or her children. The last words were: "I have made my fears and concerns known to family and friends in the event that something tragic happens to any of us."
She also filed three protection-from-abuse petitions against Holcombe. But he continued to work as a police officer.
"He's 'untouchable,' as he likes to say. He's said that to me, he's said that to the kids," Mulligan, 41, told the Daily News recently. "So he knows that he's going to get away with everything - which he does."
That is, until Holcombe was arrested in November for allegedly threatening to kill Mulligan in front of one son during a custodial dispute and for allegedly assaulting a police officer who responded to the scene.
The incident was captured on camera by Mulligan's husband, John.
"I'm going to jail right now because I'm going to kill you," Holcombe can be heard on video saying to Candida Mulligan. "I'm going to f---ing kill you."
Holcombe, 42, was charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, resisting arrest, terroristic threats, endangering the welfare of children, harassment and disorderly conduct.
And he was fired by the Police Department.
Candida Mulligan thought her troubles might be over.
"I breathed a momentary sigh of relief," she said. "John kept saying, 'This should be it. We have it on video. You can't deny what's on video.'
"That's what everyone thought," she added.
But everyone was wrong.
On Jan. 5, in a move that shocked the Mulligans and the District Attorney's Office, Judge James Murray Lynn dismissed all charges against Holcombe at his preliminary hearing except disorderly conduct.
Now the Mulligans worry that Holcombe will get his job back in arbitration and that he'll regain custody of the kids. And they fear for their lives.
"I only got one favor to ask," John Mulligan told the People Paper. "If we die, please run the story."
'Hiding in the bedroom'
Holcombe and Candida Mulligan met at the Police Administration Building in 1998 and dated from then until 2010. Their two sons are 13 and 5 years old.
Mulligan said that Holcombe was verbally and physically abusive during their relationship and that he has a drinking problem. She vividly remembers one night when she says he threatened to burn the house down.
"Me and the kids were upstairs hiding in the bedroom and he was downstairs lighting papers on fire. He told us he was going to burn us," she said. "I just remember praying."
In 2010, she got the courage to leave. "I ran out of there like a bat out of hell," Mulligan said.
Following the breakup, Mulligan said, the two entered into a verbal custody agreement. But after she met her husband, "all hell broke loose," she said, and Holcombe insisted on getting a court order granting full joint custody. Mulligan said the threats and harassing behavior also became more intense.
"It's a lot of verbal, mental and emotional harassment," she said.
She filed several complaints with the local police district and Internal Affairs, none of which went anywhere, she said.
In January 2012, Mulligan filed her first of three protection-from-abuse orders against Holcombe for threats and harassment.
A temporary PFA was granted for a few months, but as with the two subsequent PFAs she filed, when she went back to court to make the order permanent, a judge - the same one each time - dismissed it.
A new judge even refused to grant Mulligan a permanent PFA against Holcombe after his recent arrest, although she has a temporary one against him now.
Mulligan said she believed that Holcombe received special treatment because he was a cop.
"Basically, every time we'd go to court I was getting reprimanded because I'm making all these complaints against him," she said. "That was his defense every time we'd go: 'She's trying to get me fired.' "
Lt. John Stanford, a police spokesman, confirmed that "a number of PFAs" were filed against Holcombe, but he declined to say how many.
He said that each was investigated by Internal Affairs but that when the courts threw out the temporary PFAs, Internal Affairs was "forced to conclude [its] investigation as not sustained."
Stanford said that whenever a cop is served with a temporary PFA, the officer's guns are reclaimed by the department, the cop is placed on desk duty and an Internal Affairs investigation is initiated.
But if a permanent PFA is granted, the officer is terminated from the force, he said.
The PFAs were not Internal Affairs' only dealings with Holcombe, who became a cop in 1991 and most recently worked in the Neighborhood Services Unit.
In 1997, the city settled a fatal shooting case against him for $750,000, and in 2009, a woman filed suit against him for allegedly kicking in her door and punching her in the head.
After numerous court hearings and investigations that went nowhere, Mulligan felt helpless. Cops told her to go to the press.
"I've had officers literally come up to me and hold my hand and say, 'You need to go public with this. It's the only way something is going to get done,' " she said.
A September 2014 Daily News study showed that in the previous five years, domestic-abuse complaints were filed against 164 cops, only 11 of whom were terminated and charged. Of those, only three were found guilty. Most of the others got their jobs back in arbitration.
In November, Mulligan was awarded primary physical and legal custody of the kids.
In her order, Judge Diane Thompson said the Department of Human Services had substantiated that the boys were left alone while in Holcombe's care and were often late for school. She also wrote that Holcombe failed to follow through on court-ordered counseling and that the children expressed concerns about his abuse of alcohol.
Holcombe attributed his "erratic behavior" to diabetes, the judge wrote.
The custodial exchange following the new custody agreement that week did not go well and ended in Holcombe's arrest.
The Mulligans showed up at Holcombe's house to pick up the boys at the scheduled 6 p.m. time. The older boy came outside but said Holcombe would not let the 5-year-old out of the house.
The couple sat in their car and as Candida Mulligan calmly called 9-1-1, John Mulligan, a suburban fire chief, began filming.
It was only when cops arrived that Holcombe came out of the house, shirtless, leaving the 5-year-old alone inside.
John Mulligan had gotten out of the vehicle to speak with the cops, but Holcombe went directly to the car for Candida.
"F--- you. Guess what, Candy? You're a piece of s---," Holcombe can be heard on the Mulligans' video yelling in front of the 13-year-old.
As the responding cops tried to calm Holcombe down, he went off even more on his ex-girlfriend.
"I'm going to jail right now because I'm going to kill you," he can be heard saying on the video. "I'm going to f---ing kill you. OK? How about that?"
At that point, according to the Mulligans, Holcombe tried to go after Candida and ended up allegedly assaulting one of the officers instead.
"It was like WrestleMania. He broke the mirror clean off my truck," John Mulligan said.
The video ends with Holcombe being handcuffed on the ground, Candida Mulligan sobbing and her son trying to comfort her.
"Everything just came back, it was a flood of emotions," she said.
Congrats from cops
After Holcombe's arrest, Candida Mulligan said, cops congratulated her.
"I received messages from officers saying. 'Thank God, they finally got him. Finally someone is listening. Finally, something is going to be done,' " she said.
But when the preliminary hearing was held before Judge James Murray Lynn on Jan. 5, Lynn dismissed all charges except for the summary disorderly conduct.
"The judge basically stated that it was sad and disgusting when a child dislikes the other parent and that's only caused because of the things I say and do," Candida said.
John Mulligan was stunned.
"Of course, it's not that the child hears from his father that 'I want to kill you, your mom and your stepfather,' " he said.
The reasons behind Lynn's ruling remain a mystery. He did not return several requests for comment for this story.
But the Mulligans weren't the only ones who thought the judge had made the wrong decision.
The District Attorney's Office has refiled all charges against Holcombe, and he's slated for a new preliminary hearing before a different judge Feb. 9, said John Delaney, deputy district attorney for the trial division.
"Let me say this: We believe the evidence was sufficient to prove our burden at the preliminary hearing," Delaney said. "We believe Judge Lynn was in error when he dismissed the charges."
Holcombe's attorney, Jeremy Alva, disagrees.
"I believe Judge Lynn made the correct ruling," Alva said. "The government has a right to try their case as they choose, and if they believe a refile is necessary, that's their decision."
Alva said he told his client not to comment for this story.
Fraternal Order of Police President John McNesby said the FOP is not covering Holcombe's costs on this case, but if he is acquitted the union might reimburse his court fees up to $9,000. He said the union is waiting to see what happens in the case.
Now, Candida and John Mulligan worry that if the system betrays them yet again, Holcombe will regain his job in arbitration, regain custody of his children and get the current PFA tossed.
"I have a 13-year-old son who doesn't trust cops because even though he sees great cops, his experience isn't that," Candida said. "We constantly have to remind him that not all cops are bad,but it's hard because he's living with one who thinks he can get away with anything."