Domestic violence behind many of Utah's 2012 homicides

Remembering victims: Families, communities faced tragedies throughout year

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 1 2013 11:45 a.m. MST

Mourners hold a candlelight vigil at the community memorial vigil at Ben Lomond High School in Ogden for Emilie Parker, one of the children murdered during the recent school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012

Ben Brewer, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The faces of Utah's 2012 homicide victims are haunting.

From a 1-month-old baby shaken to death, to a 6-year-old girl kidnapped from her home and raped, to an 84-year-old woman stabbed dozens of times allegedly by one of her 13 grandchildren who called her "Honey," the victims represent a wide spectrum of Utahns.

Perhaps the most jarring statistic is that half of the more than four dozen killings in Utah last year stemmed from domestic incidents.

The number of domestic violence deaths has reached an "epidemic proportion," according to the Utah Domestic Violence Council, even though it says such deaths are among the "most predictable and therefore preventable forms of homicide."

"These horrific crimes affect innocent children, families, and church families as well as entire communities," its website states.

Peg Coleman, the council's executive director, said she is seeing more and more violence and hearing "awful stories of desperation."

"It's not talked about. It's seen as more of a family matter and that ... keeps people experiencing it in shame. We want to change that and show it's never OK," she said.

"Utah's very foundation is based on supporting and sustaining families. This next year we can all work together to make Utah the safest state in the nation for children and families. I'm hoping we can work together to make that our goal."

Coleman said domestic violence crimes are "terribly underreported" and are often generalized as offenses committed by men.

"People think it's a gender issue, a political issue, but it's a human rights issue," she said. "It's a public safety issue. It's about a tremendous amount of suffering."

Domestic violence

The topic of domestic violence is often uncomfortable and many are afraid to talk about it, let alone report it, Coleman said.

"Almost universally people say, 'I can't believe this happening to me.' 'I can't believe this happening to my daughter or someone I care about.'"

The Utah Domestic Violence Council does offer services from a completely anonymous LINKLine, 1-800-897-LINK (5465). "We want people to call us before it becomes a criminal act," she said.

"We all get moved when we see these pictures of very sad animals who are suffering … no one wants to look at black and blue women and children," Coleman added. "We need to raise that awareness, that it's happening in our neighborhoods."

During 2012, police say at least six men killed their girlfriends. Yet mothers, daughters, girlfriends, brothers, fathers, stepsons and others also stand accused of killing fellow family members in Utah.

Among the domestic deaths:

• The mother of Virginia Hansen, 18, is accused of shooting and killing her as part of a botched suicide pact in West Jordan. Mary Hansen, who also shot herself but survived, was charged with murder.

• The next day, in an unrelated incident, Adria Jordan Parker, 25, and her 5-year-old daughter, Eliza Kate Parker, were shot and killed in Washington County by Parker's live-in boyfriend who then committed suicide.

• Marnie Stark was beaten to death in her Ogden home by her live-in boyfriend, Jeffrey Dene White, in front of his two young children. White later committed suicide in jail.

Stark's mother, Jessie Franich, said the family knew Stark was in an abusive relationship and feared it was headed to a "bad place."

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