Utah homicides down in 2011, but domestic violence killings increased

Published: Sunday, Jan. 1 2012 9:25 p.m. MST

In nearly all cases, the violence between a couple does not begin with a murder.

"It's not uncommon that there is some history. That doesn't necessarily mean that history has been documented," Wyckoff said. "Often times that history has gone undisclosed."

In December, the Deseret News talked to AshLee Bambrough. Bambrough's former boyfriend was charged with kidnapping and aggravated assault after prosecutors say he pushed AshLee out of a vehicle moving 65 mph. She survived the incident, but was left with a fractured skull, broken hand and many cuts, scrapes and scars across her face and back.

AshLee said her boyfriend was very controlling.

"He tried to control what I wore, where I worked, how I looked, who my friends were, and he attempted to cut me off from my family. I now realize that these are actions of an abusive man," she wrote in documents filed in court.

But after each incident of abuse, she said he would come back the next day asking for forgiveness.

"When he'd start playing the nice guy again, I'd think, 'Maybe I did do something wrong. Maybe he was just trying to protect me. Maybe this, maybe that.' Honestly, now that I look back, I don't know what made me stay," she said.

Wyckoff calls it the "cycle of abuse," and said all domestic violence victims need to recognize the signs to know when to get out of a relationship. The first part is the "tension building phase" in which a couple will quarrel and the perpetrator will try to keep the victim isolated from friends and family. Then a violent episode will occur, followed by a honeymoon period filled with false promises.

"That is the cycle seen in many domestic violence relationships," she said.

Red flags that victims and their friends should look for include increased physical violence and controlling behavior such as threatening to harm a partner's children or pets, threats of suicide and forced sex.

Those looking to leave a violent relationship are encouraged not to act alone, Wyckoff said. A friend or a neighbor or a local women's shelter should be notified. If someone is in immediate danger, they should call 911, she said.

Otherwise, if someone is seeking to leave a violent relationship, the can call the Utah Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-897-LINK (5465) or the national hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

"If you or someone you know is experiencing, abuse, break the silence," Wyckoff said. "You can't end the abuse without breaking the silence."

Another case that captured the emotions of Utah residents in 2011 but will not be included in the BCI's statistics because it happened just over the Utah border in Nevada,  was the death of 16-year-old West Wendover High School student Micaela "Mickey" Costanzo. Investigators say Micaela was taken after school by a schoolmate to a remote area of the west desert near the border, killed and left in a shallow grave. Kody Cree Patten, 18, and Toni Fratto, 19, are scheduled to go on trial on murder charges.

Eleven times in 2011, a person was killed in Utah and the person suspected in the crime was a husband or boyfriend. In four additional cases, the defendant was a roommate.

Five of this year's homicides included children younger than 3 years old.

Provo had four homicides in 2011. Although recently released statistics from the FBI showed a significant drop in most major crimes in Provo, the exception was homicides, which rose from one in 2010 to four in 2011.

Two of those homicides came March 14 when a distraught woman set a fire inside her apartment near 750 S. 650 West. The resulting inferno claimed the lives of two neighbors, Karen Murray and Catherine Crane.

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