As we celebrate Domestic Violence Awareness Month across America, the struggle to reduce and prevent domestic violence and related sexual assault rages. Each week this month approximately 20 women, men, children, and police officers have died in family violence related incidents (an average of four per day). Last week, the Topeka City Council decriminalized domestic violence in an effort to save money. Sadly, many communities are prosecuting less abusers and holding less violent offenders accountable for their violence against women, children, and men even though they don’t get the attention like Topeka. Even with strong support from the Obama Administration, less and less resources are available in local communities even as the amount and type of violence increases. And as I write today, we are in week 12 of a series of domestic violence mass murders or near mass murders that have swept across America. Not including the daily array of murders and murder-suicides, forty-six people have died in nine domestic violence-related murders since July 8, 2011 and there has been no national media or public awareness about this epidemic of deaths.
Sadly, few are really seeing the big picture and it is not a national media story. But a series of twenty Yahoo and Google Alerts monitored by the National Family Justice Center Alliance on a daily basis, tell the story of the recent mass or near-mass murders. As we all speak and reach out to others to raise awareness about domestic violence, let’s speak in memory of those that have died in recent weeks. And let’s raise our voices loud enough to be heard.
Under FBI guidelines, a mass murder is fourth deaths without a cooling off period. One of the recent killings listed below misses the mass murder definition because three died and the other because the two pastors with gunshot wounds to the head are still alive – though one remains in critical condition. As domestic violence movement leaders gather in Salt Lake City in a few weeks for the National Domestic Violence Conference we will be looking closely at what can be done to respond to this deeply troubling trend toward mass murders and family annihilation killings. But even as we prepare for that conference, here is the news story, mass murder story that has not been told.
DV Mass Murders in Recent Weeks
- July 8 – Wheatland, Wyoming: Everett Conant killed his brother, Nacuma, and his three sons (Everett, Charles, and Joseph ranging in age from 12 to 18) and tried to kill his wife, Suzett, but she escaped. He is being prosecuted for the murders.
- July 18 – Medford, Oregon: Jordan Criado stabbed his wife, Tabasha, and four children (Elijah, 7, Issac, 6, Andrew, 5, and Auroja,2) and set the house on fire. Jordan Criado is being prosecuted for their murders.
- July 23 – Grand Prairie, Texas: Tan Do killed his wife, Trini, and four of her relatives (her sisters Lynn and Michelle and her brother Hien and sister in law Thuy) at his son’s 11th birthday party at a roller skating rink. Tan killed himself after pointing the gun at his eleven year old son and three year old daughter as they mourned over their dead mother. Police authorities said the children were “unharmed.”
- August 7 – Copley, Ohio: Michael Hance shot his girlfriend Becky Dieter and then killed seven others before chasing her 11 year old nephew Scotty Dieter through the neighborhood and executing him in a neighbor’s basement. Hance was killed in a gunfight with police.
- August 19 – Newport News, Virginia: John Ragin killed his wife, Crystal, and three of his four children (Sierra, 15, Rasheed, 10, and Lakwan, 6) and then set them on fire. Ragin is now being prosecuted.
- September 5 – Morgantown, WV: Shayne Riggleman killed Charles and Karin Richardson, her children (Kevin, 17, and Katrina, 20), and killed Robert Raber, who was living in their home. He killed himself hours later in Kentucky.
- September 18 – Lakeland, Florida (Jeremiah Fogle shot and killed his wife Theresa in their home and then burst into a Sunday morning church service at Greater Faith Christian Center Church and shot Senior Pastor William Boss and Assistant Pastor Carl Stewart in the head. William Boss survived and recovered. Carl Stewart is still in critical condition. Jeremiah Fogle is being prosecuted.
- September 25 – Morgantown, PA: Kevin Teagarden killed his wife, Tammy, and their two small children (Madison, 8; and Kevin Jr. 22 months) and then killed himself.
- October 13 – Seal Beach, CA: Scott Dekraai killed his ex-wife Michelle Fournier and seven others in a hair salon including the owner, patrons, and people on the street. It is the largest mass murder in the history of Orange County, California. The murdered victims include: Victoria Buzz, 54; David Caouette, 64; Laura Elody, 46; Randy Fannin, 62; Michelle Daschbach, 47; Michelle Fournier, 48; Lucia Kondas, 65; and Christy Wilson, 47. Scott Dekraai is being prosecuted for the murders and will face the death penalty.
What can we all do? Educate yourself about the sobering statistics by reviewing the research from the National Network to End Domestic Violence and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Then, speak out! Question the failures of systems to collaborate and respond earlier and more effectively to dangerous domestic violence offenders. Demand more attention to the issue of family violence from elected officials and local policy makers. Support local domestic violence shelters, Family Justice Centers, and other programs seeking to provide help and support to victims and their children. Refuse to let any woman, child, or man die in vain. Occupy Wall Street has spread like a wildfire across America in recent weeks. Where is our outrage over the American citizens dying every day in family violence-related incidents? We need so many more people to know the truth and demand more focus on this public health epidemic. Perhaps the loud voices of those who care will cause more to be aware.