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Free Self-Defense Class Honors Two Area Women

Dean Lavas, owner of Pro Karate, is teaching a free a self-defense class in honor of two area women — Kelly Rothwell and Sheena Morris — who he believes were victims of domestic violence.

A local karate teacher is offering a free self-defense class for women next week in honor of two area women who he believes were victims of violence.

"If Sheena Morris or Kelly Rothwell had taken a class like this, we don't know what would have happened, if they'd be here today," Dean Lavas, owner of Pro Karate in Palm Harbor, said.

St. Petersburg Police cadet Kelly Rothwell, 35, vanished in March of 2011. A close friend called the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office concerned about Rothwell's safety because of domestic issues between her and her boyfriend. Rothwell has not been found.  

Sheena Morris, 22, was found dead in a Bradenton Beach hotel room in 2009. Her family says prior to her death, someone in a nearby hotel room called 911 to report a domestic disturbance. Morris' family wants her death investigated.

Lavas learned about the Sheena Morris case after the her mother enrolled in one of his self-defense classes. 

Lavas said the class teaches basic self-defense moves and can help get women out of a bad situation. He said the classes are also beneficial to recent high school graduates headed to college. Both of his grown daughters hold black belts in karate.

"For my older daughter, when she was going off to college, I felt very comfortable knowing that she knew some self-defense techniques," Lavas said. "As a father it really relieved me."

The free women's self-defense class will be held at 7:45 p.m., on Sept. 12 at Pro Karate, 843 County Road 1, Palm Harbor. Call 727-734-9659 to reserve a space.

Pro Karate also offers a four-week, self-defense class for $100. The next class begins Sept. 26.

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