The report, commissioned by the Pinellas County Domestic Violence Task Force, recorded 13 homicides last year. This is the highest number they have counted since they started keeping track! Since it started in 1996, there have been 114 fatal domestic violence cases in Pinellas county.
Even worse, five of the homicides were murder-suicides (where the killer takes his/her own life after murdering the partner), bringing the 2012 death total to 18.
Nobody has an answer as to why the sudden increase in domestic violence related deaths. It may take years to find out why because the task force can only study the cases after the criminal justice system is through. The State Attorney’s office and police are hesistant to share information on an open case.
Besides the police, the task force uses a variety of sources for its research including the clerk of court, domestic violence shelters and probation offices, among others.
Per a victim advocate from the Largo Police Department, before last year the highest number of domestic homicide cases were 10 back in 2001. The advocate continued “Behavior is hard to predict and, with domestic homicide, we’re always trying to look at the past to prepare for the future. But sometimes it takes years upon years of data to see a significant trend.”
Among the more notable 2012 Pinellas murders were the following:
– In September a woman fatally stabbed her husband in their Saint Petersburg apartment after he answered a phone call from another woman.
– The day of their divorce court date a man shot his estranged wife and then himself in Clearwater where the woman was staying with her children and a relative.
– A man murders his wife and then shoots himself in a Walgreens parking lot, orphaning their child.
– In August a man kills his girlfriend by running her over as she fled their home in Pinellas Park. The killing was seen by her children.
While the 2012 cases are still going through the court system, there are a few patterns worth noting. For instance all five of the murder-suicides were committed by men with half of the couples in the process of a divorce.
In addition and not surprisingly, alcohol and/or drugs played a role in almost 75% of the tracked cases since 1996. Sadly in almost half the cases the suspect had previously been arrested for domestic violence but a judge never ordered a domestic violence course in nearly three out of every four cases!
To view the Pinellas report, please click on the ndvfri.org website here. The website also has plenty of tips such as:
•Friends and relatives: Listen nonjudgmentally; offer to help with money, a ride, storing documents or watching children.
•Bosses and co-workers: Hang informational posters in workplace bathrooms; give staff time off for court dates.
•Neighbors: Call police if you hear a disturbance; develop a code word the victim can use to alert you to call police.
•Clergy members or community leaders: Be available to speak about intimate partner violence or advocate on the issue; partner with shelters to keep women safe.