SALT LAKE CITY — The text messages came in one after the other, and were very threatening in nature.
"I'll put a whole clip in your head," stated one, followed by, "Your brains will be pasta" and "I hope I don't ever run into you because that's the last time you going to see light."
A little over a week later, the woman who received those texts was chased in a car by the man accused of sending them, her ex-boyfriend. At a stop light, the man got out of his car, ran up to hers and tried to open the door. The woman continued driving until police, whom she had called, could catch up with her and stop the ex-boyfriend.
The woman in that recent case was unharmed. But a woman in a similar incident over the summer wasn't as fortunate.
Jill Lloyd, 36, was stopped at the intersection of 7800 South and 2700 West on June 28 when her ex-boyfriend, Andrew Jed Larsen, 33, pulled his vehicle next to hers, got out, walked up to her car and shot her through the window. Lloyd died at the scene. Larsen was later found in Tooele County dead from a self-inflicted gunshot.
The shocking incident was the fourth domestic violence-related murder-suicide in June in Utah and the third high-profile killing at the hands of an ex-partner. The other two high profile incidents included:
• On June 22, Fransiska Dastrup, 49, rammed her car into 47-year-old Richelle Horsley's vehicle, got out and shot her multiple times before running off and fatally shooting herself.
At the time, Horsley had filed protective orders against Dastrup, according to investigators. The couple had recently broken up, and Dastrup was in the process of moving out.
• On June 6, Memorez Rackley, 39, and her son, Jase, 6, were shot and killed in their Sandy neighborhood by Jeremy Patterson, 32. The two had recently ended a relationship and he had been harassing and sending threatening messages to Rackley.
Another one of Rackley's sons and an 8-year-old girl were also shot before Patterson committed suicide.
Since those incidents, some police agencies have noticed an increase in the number of people whom officers have arrested for violating protective orders or for stalking. Statistics from the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office appear to back that up.
From January through May, the district attorney's office filed 49 cases involving stalking charges. But over the next five months, from June through mid-October, a total of 81 stalking cases were filed in the county, 59 of those since the incident in West Jordan.
The number of cases filed in June, September, and October were more than any month since 2015, according to the district attorney.
In a random sampling of cases filed in October alone, the Deseret News found one case in which a man was charged with sending an ex-girlfriend links to songs that referenced stalking and death. In another case, a man entered his ex-girlfriend's house and refused to leave.
Some officers say the increase in people being arrested on stalking and related charges may have less to do with police stepping up efforts and more with victims being proactive by calling police and seeking protective orders.
Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera credits the increase to efforts from a number of different agencies combining their efforts, such as more victim advocate services being offered.
Tackling domestic violence, putting more teeth into protective orders and protecting victims are some of Rivera's main goals since she took office a couple of months ago. Rivera's own daughter was a victim of domestic violence, she said.
The sheriff would like to see the laws regarding what defines a domestic relationship changed. It's a topic that was brought up following the murder of Rackley and her son. Under current state law, the relationship between Rackley and Patterson would not be considered a domestic relationship because the two never cohabited.
In June, Ned Searle, director of the State Office on Domestic and Sexual Violence, said the state had already begun the process of re-examining who qualifies for a stalking injunction and what the state definition is for an "intimate partner."
"There's a lot of bullying" in today's age of social media, Rivera said. "There's a lot of retaliation, stalking. So we need some laws so we can actually deal with that."
The sheriff would also like to see stiffer penalties for protective order violations on the first offense. Currently, violating a protective order is a class A misdemeanor. Rivera would like to see it increased to a felony on the first offense.
"I think the protective order can work. However, it works after they violated it," she said.
Some ex-partners who have protective orders filed against them don't realize the seriousness of violating that order until after they've committed a violation, she said. The result is heavy penalties on the other side, but not a lot of deterrence on the front end.
"They don't listen that they can't go near that victim," she said. "They need to understand, you violate this order you go to jail. You get some pretty stiff penalties. Because once they violate, it shows you that they don't care. It has to be really clear at the beginning, you violate you go to jail. You violate a second time and it's really stiff penalties."
Stewart Ralphs, executive director of Legal Aid Society of Salt Lake, said his office hasn't noticed an uptick in protective order violations or stalking arrests. However, he noted that local law enforcement agencies have been doing a better job of utilizing the Lethality Assessment Protocol — a set of questions officers ask a victim when they respond to a domestic violence call to determine the threat level of that person being in the home.2 comments on this story
"Sometimes that's the first time a victim becomes cognizant of how serious their situation is," he said. "Because sometimes a controlling relationship or even a violent relationship, that's their norm, and often times they don't realize the danger they're in until they ask those lethality questions."
Help for people in abusive relationships can be found by contacting the YWCA's Women in Jeopardy program at 801-537-8600, or the confidential statewide Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-897-LINK (5465). Resources are also available online at udvc.org.