Jennifer Renee Davis: To escape marriage, ex-wife put up no fight

By DEMORRIS A. LEE, Times Staff Writer
Published December 15, 2007

Jennifer Renee Davis gave everything away, even her children, to break free from a marriage that was violent from the start, counselors say.

Married at 18, Davis, 27, did not contest a divorce brought by her ex-husband, Oliver Thomas Bernsdorff, in August. She did not hire a lawyer or show up for a court hearing.

Davis gave Bernsdorff "primary residential responsibility" for their children, ages 4 and 2, and agreed to pay him $801.90 a month in child support, even though she owed $56,000 in student loans.

He got the equity in the house in Clearwater. She left the marriage with a 2002 Hyundai Elantra.

Even after the divorce, the abuse continued, said Jackie Brown, a facilitator for the Haven of RCS, a North Pinellas domestic violence agency.

"The last time she was alone with him, he kicked her," Brown said.

Still, Davis began working out and losing weight so she could enjoy brownies. She worked as a team assistant at Hospice of the Florida Suncoast.

Married in 1999, Davis gave birth to her first child, Olivia Johanna Bernsdorff, underwater at Morton Plant Hospital on Dec. 20, 2002.

On Feb. 15, 2005, she gave birth to their son, Magnus Arwyn Schkolnik Bernsdorff, at home in a whirlpool.

On a family Web site, Davis and Bernsdorff offered instruction in the Bradley method of natural, unmedicated childbirth.

Friday, there were three tricycles in the yard at the house on Powderhorn Drive. Olivia rode a pink bicycle.

The last time Brown saw 4-year-old Olivia, she was dancing in the middle of the room to music in her head.

"That's the last vision I have of her," Brown said.