As domestic violence advocates marched in memory of women who were killed within weeks of each other by current or former lovers, people want to know why: Do these recent killings mean domestic violence is getting worse in the city? And if so, why?
Some people will point to the economy. Others will point to a lack of education on resources available for victims. But these facts remain: In two weeks, three women in Mecklenburg County have been killed, allegedly at the hands of men who at one time were supposed to love them. And in one incident, a woman's son also was killed.
The state of the economy may be a factor, but it's no excuse, said Mike Sexton of the Mecklenburg County Women's Commission. "The economy downturn will put extra stress in any relationship. It does not justify an abuser's behavior to beat his wife or isolate his girlfriend," Sexton said. "As much as we all try to figure out why these perpetrators -- male and female -- behave abusively toward those they are supposed to love ... the fact remains the same: They choose to abuse physically, sexually and emotionally."
The most recent deaths started Dec. 4, when Roschelle Woyee, 19, was killed. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police allege that Daniel Jaworski, now in the Mecklenburg County jail, was the shooter.
On Dec. 11, Elizabeth Michelle Elder was fatally shot. Police said Elder was pronounced dead in her east Charlotte home. Her boyfriend, Richard Wilson, is now in jail, facing one count of murder.
Two days later, police responded to another domestic violence killing. Scott Edmond Davis Sr. allegedly shot and killed Gabrille Kinard. Police said he also shot Anjelo Kinard, her 18-year-old son, and 15-year-old Gabriella Kinard as she attempted to flee with her 5-month-old sister in her arms. Anjelo Kinard died last Monday at Carolinas Medical Center.
Though the killings happened in a short period of time, police said this year isn't much different from previous years. "We've had so far this year, 15 domestic violence homicides and last year we had 13. It varies between 12 and 16 every year so this isn't very unusual," said Capt. Lisa Goelz.
Economic woes add pressure to situations, Goelz said, but it doesn't make people who aren't batterers beat their wives or girlfriends. "Batterers who are predisposed to violence are going to commit violent acts against their girlfriends or spouses or whatever the case may be. With batterers, it's all about power and control and so many different other factors," she said.
In fact, the biggest role that the economy may play in dealing with domestic violence is a victim's ability to get away from his or her abuser. "It plays a factor in a victim's ability to get out of that situation. It does make it tougher to live on their own and afford housing and find a job," Goelz said.
Sexton said that resources in the county are available but are "minimal and more is needed."
One way victims can help themselves is to have a safety plan, said Sexton. "Safety planning is a pivotal and a powerful tool for victims and children of victims," he said. "The abuse in these relationships escalates, where at one time a shout was enough for the abuser to get what they wanted. The next time the shout may not work and they resort to a push. A push then becomes a punch and then a punch is not enough."
But those plans can often be dangerous for victims trying to escape their abusers. "Because domestic violence is about power and control, abusers need someone to control because they feel out of control in their own lives. The tragic reality is that the abuse gets much, much worse when a victim tries to leave. In 80 to 85 percent of these murder cases, the victim is trying to leave," he said.
Goelz said patrol officers who respond to a domestic violence call give the victim a list of resources for help. When a case is more serious, involves stalking or hospitalization, a detective is assigned to the case. CMPD's domestic violence unit was combined with the Special Victim's Division following the department's reordering earlier this year. Ten detectives are in the unit.
"Any time there is an act of violence we encourage victims to call 911," she said. "One of the most frightening things to me, is that when we respond to these domestic violence homicides, a lot of times that homicide is the first time that we in law enforcement are aware that there's a problem with that family."
Where to call for help:
United Family Services' Shelter for Battered Women: 704-332-2513
Mecklenburg County Community Support Services: 704-432-SAFE
Women's Commission: 704-336-3210
CMPD Youth Crime/DV-Unit: 704-336-2811