Here are the names of the 10 American women killed by their partners from New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Day, 2018
At the beginning of this year, in a 24-hour period lasting from 5 p.m. on New Year’s Eve to the same time on New Year’s Day, at least 10 American women were killed by their past or present intimate partners. And at least 25 were killed the first week of the year. These numbers have not been reflected in annual domestic violence statistics released to the public yet, but were found by carefully gleaning newspapers across the country for stories of women who were killed by husbands, ex-husbands and boyfriends.
Several were murdered in public during an argument, and one (a mother of five young children) was killed at a New Year’s party.
It’s another statistic that reminds us just how deadly the problem of domestic violence is in the United States — and that while some doubt the numbers or believe they’re exaggerated, they’re actually understated each year, for a number of reasons. Some don’t understand the extent of the problem, though. Ten months ago, in February of this year, California Rep. Jackie Speier Tweeted, “3 American women are murdered every day by their husband or boyfriend.” As a result, the non-profit fact-checking outlet, Politifact, run by the Poynter journalism institute, set out to determine whether her “provocative” number was overstated. “We wanted to know whether the congresswoman’s provocative claim was accurate and what source of information she relied on,” they wrote.
In the end, they determined the number was accurate as long as both current and past partners are included in the definition — which they should be, as many of these incidents occur right after a breakup, and the CDC does count past partners in their definition of domestic violence. “One could argue the tally is higher than the studies show,” Politifact wrote. “We found Speier’s claim is on the right track, but could have used a few clarifications.”
According to the most recent statistics, in one year, 1,537 American women were murdered by a man they knew.
In fact, this past September, the nonprofit Violence Policy Center, based in Washington, D.C., released their annual study of numbers from the FBI’s Supplemental Homicide Reports. Their numbers showed that an average of 2.64 women per day were killed by a current or past intimate partner in America in 2016, a number that has risen for two straight years. (The numbers for 2016 are the most recent, comprehensive statistics available.) In raw numbers, “1,809 females [were] murdered by males in single victim/single offender incidents that were submitted to the FBI,” they wrote, with 1,537 of those murdered by a man they knew. Of those, 962 were wives, ex-wives, or current girlfriends. But the report notes that the last number is lower than the true number of intimate partner murders, as the FBI didn’t include ex-girlfriends in their reporting.
The numbers also don’t include the many cases in which the relationship between the perpetrator and victim wasn’t immediately clear. For instance, on New Year’s Day of 2018, a 27-year-old woman was found beaten to death in a Chicago apartment after “a relative of her estranged husband” phoned to tell the police where her body was, according to the Chicago Tribune. Was this person murdered by someone she knew, or was it random? Police said in newspaper accounts that they had no suspects. Thus, this won’t be considered in the domestic violence numbers.
Are 10 domestic violence murders in a 24-hour period unusual? Yes, but a look at the reasons why can also help point to solutions. Domestic violence experts say that these incidents ramp up around the holidays for three reasons: Alcohol (and drugs) are often around, family members are in close proximity to each other for an extended period of time, and finances can become harder, especially around the gift-giving holidays and the new year.
These incidents make clear the need to talk about solutions. The CDC released a report last year called “Preventing intimate partner violence across the lifespan,” included a “package of programs, policies, and practices” for reducing domestic violence. Strategies included helping men and boys become “allies in prevention” through programs teaching them to discourage rather than accept violence against women. One 11-session “intervention with male high school athletes,” run by team coaches, encourages young men to “model and promote respectful, nonviolent, health relationships” among teammates and friends, instead of “laughing and encouraging abusive behaviors.”
The CDC also includes solutions to “disrupt the developmental pathways toward partner violence” by addressing factors including poverty and child abuse. They also stress that there’s a stigma around men seeking counseling, but the stigma declined when men were encouraged to do so, particularly through the workplace. A military program to encourage men to get counseling reduced domestic violence by 30 percent, the report says.
This contradicts the rhetoric from certain political circles in America that belittle men for expressing their emotions or refer to them by names such as “soy boys.” If domestic violence statistics make one thing clear, it’s not that this country’s big problem is that men are too soft.
(Men can, of course, be victims of domestic violence and abuse as well; the ratio of women who are murdered by male partners to the reverse is about four to one, according to Justice Department figures.)
It’s worth looking at the ten incidents around the country in the first 24 hours of the year, because it shows us that they happen to women of all different socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicities, and regions of the country — and can provide clues to making a dent in the problem.
A brief rundown of the 10 incidents:
Timeline of the 10 domestic violence murders on New Year’s Day, 2018
— Around 2 a.m., Corry Merriweather, 31, allegedly shot to death girlfriend Chandra Mays, 29, in his mother’s home in Memphis, Tenn., in a “domestic dispute,” news reports said. According to one story, “Chandra received a Facetime call from another man while she was at Merriweather’s home. He allegedly got upset and shot her.” The suspect’s mother was home at the time and heard a “thud,” reports said.
— At approximately 4 a.m. in Columbia Heights, Minn., a 35-year-old man, later identified in police reports as Fue Her, was seen on videotape allegedly carrying a woman’s body out of a building. At 12:25 p.m., police found the badly beaten body of Linda Pa Vue, 29, in a running SUV. Police charged ex-boyfriend Fue Her with second-degree murder. According to the Minneapolis StarTribune, she had contacted police the previous Aug. 2 to say she was “afraid of her boyfriend” and wanted to talk to them.
— Around 4:42 a.m., Ladale Williams-Nelson, 37, allegedly shot girlfriend Leticia Vela, 25, in their Michigan apartment “during a New Year’s Day argument.” She had five children who are now staying with relatives, including the couple’s 1-year-old son. (This incident is a sad story of recidivism and a woman perhaps not knowing about her older partner’s history. Williams-Nelson had been charged with domestic violence ten years earlier, in 2008 and then in 2009. Before his 2009 sentencing, he sent a letter to the circuit court judge asking for “one more chance to prove I can be a functional citizen in this great city [Grand Rapids],” adding, “Those mistakes I made will never happen again,” according to mlive.com. Ms. Vela would have been about 16 during Williams-Nelson’s first arrest. A man who can convince a judge that he’s changed can certainly persuade a 25-year-old woman of the same.) In May of 2018, four months after Vela’s death, her sister told mlive.com that the adults told the children she’s “sleeping.” “They want their mom home,” she said. “They don’t understand. She can’t come home.”
A man who can convince a judge that he’s changed can certainly persuade a 25-year-old woman of the same.
— At 7:30 a.m. in Oakland, Calif., Enrique Sandoval, 44, allegedly shot to death his wife of 12 years, Francisca Ramirez, 38, in their home, over a “dispute.”
— At 8:15 a.m., across the country, in Brentwood, Md., Erwin Sanchez, 24, allegedly stabbed to death wife Lisbet Mendez, 24, “during an argument in their home,” said the Washington Post. He was charged with first-degree murder.
— Before 11 a.m. on New Year’s Day, 2018, Vinny Loknath, 42, of Queens, N.Y., stabbed to death wife Stacy Loknath, 26, the mother of their 5-year-old son and infant daughter, in their apartment. Then, he reportedly phoned his mother and a friend, saying he wanted to be cremated after his death. He traveled 1.5 miles to a wooded area called Forest Park and hung himself, where police discovered him around 11 a.m. Friends said he’d used drugs and alcohol the night before and argued with his wife in a club before the pair headed home.
— At 4:30 p.m. on New Year’s Day, police responded to a home in St. Clairsville, Ohio, after Barry Killeen, 53, phoned one of his three daughters to say he had shot and killed his wife, Stephanie Killeen, 46. As authorities approached the home, he shot himself to death. Police said they had responded to the house a month earlier because he had barricaded himself inside and threatened to kill himself. It’s unclear what kind of help he got after that.
Police said they had responded to the same house a month earlier because he had barricaded himself inside.
— Some time the same day, police in Baker, Fla. found 64-year-old William Rust and his wife, 64-year-old Gretchen Rust, dead. Police did not know whether the murder-suicide had occurred on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.
— Also on New Year’s Day, police began searching for Dwight Scott, 51, who had allegedly shot to death girlfriend Tracy Reedy, 50, in Kilgore, Texas, around 11:22 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, during an argument outside their apartment complex.
— Lastly, some time on New Year’s Day, police found Theresa Watts, 36, dead in her home in Detroit. They pieced together that after 5 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, her “estranged” husband Robert Watts, 36, showed up and fought with her. He allegedly shot her to death while their three children — 8, 12, and 15 — were in the house. Police located the children with relatives.
All told, from New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Day, at least 10 men allegedly killed their intimate partners (often described in news reports as “estranged” if police did not know whether they were going through a separation or divorce). Three men also killed themselves in these incidents, and more than a dozen children were left motherless.
How to help
Each of the stories mentioned above could have become a national story — particularly when a mother of five is killed, or a man allegedly waits to ambush a mother and 4-year-old daughter, as happened on the sixth day of the new year. Yet none of these victims have become household names, likely because each incident was quickly overshadowed by another.
Collateral victims are sometimes taken along with the deceased. An article in the Dallas Morning News noted last year that in Texas in 2016, along with 146 women murdered in domestic violence incidents (nearly one every two days in that state), 24 “bystanders” were killed in the incidents. And 183 children lost a parent. “Forty percent of the women killed statewide had tried to leave the relationships or were in the process of leaving when they were killed,” states the story, but only 30 percent sought help.
As the CDC report shows, a multifaceted problem demands multifaceted solutions. Many believe changing the culture around male/female relationships, and attacking problems such as family poverty, could help forestall these incidents.
The biggest example of the need to talk about intimate partner violence may come from a quiet place.
Just over a year ago, on the afternoon of Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2017, a man named Gregg Scott, 51, killed his 48-year-old wife, 7-year-old son, and family dog in Lacey Township, N.J. Lacey is a quiet middle-class community not far from the shore. Police said he used a hammer on his wife and child, and then slit his own throat.
Neighbors and law enforcement told the local press that they were not aware of any prior signs of trouble, although one neighbor said she couldn’t recall ever seeing young Owen playing outside with a friend. Gregg Scott was in “good standing” in his job doing HVAC maintenance at the local schools, the school board attorney said.
The slain woman’s relatives asked the authorities not to give unnecessary details to the press, and the trickle of news stories quickly stopped. This left a void of information, and people commented on news sites to ask what happened and to place blame. One newspaper reader wrote, “People choose their mates, and if they don’t cut them loose at the first sign of abuse it’s on them — I dumped women as soon as I realized they were crazy.”
The Ocean County Prosecutor’s office posted on Facebook, “The one thing we can state definitively is that this event is over, contained, and presents absolutely no danger to the surrounding community.”
But there was a danger to the community. No one discussed whether there were any warning signs, or how another family in a similar situation might be helped in the future.
Residents of Lacey raised $26,000 via GoFundMe to help the family’s relatives bury them. There was little else they could do. The family is no longer mentioned in news reports. Gregg, Kimberly, and Owen Scott are now statistics among thousands. No one is talking about the incident much.
Perhaps that’s the biggest danger of all.
Call the domestic violence hotline at 1–800–799–7233 or find another way to get help through their web page: TheHotline.org.