NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - One week after the brutal murder of a woman and her 13-year-old son, a statistic uncovered by News4 attempts to make sense of the senseless attack.

The number of children murdered in domestic violence homicides, known as “familicides,” is on the rise in Nashville.

From 2012 to 2016, there were none. In 2017, there was one. Two children died in 2018 and two have died in domestic violence homicides in 2019.

"The child can be used by the offender as a weapon against the victim," said Diane Lance, department head for Metro Family Safety Center, the largest family safety center in the country. "The safest place to go when you’re leaving your offender is a shelter where they cannot find you."

Lance explained the most dangerous time for a victim of violence is when they leave their offender. Advocates at the FSC are trained to talk to them about the signs the person abusing them, might also be a killer.

"Is there a weapon in the home? Have you ever been strangled? Is your offender unemployed? Has your offender made threats of this nature in the past?" Lance recited a few questions that are part of their lethality assessment.

Advocates then come up with a safety plan.

"Better to leave when they’re not in the home and they’re unsuspecting that you’re going to leave. Because, that in and of itself - the leaving - can incite a violent episode, if not a homicide,” said Lance.

Lance said an offender may behave similarly before a murder.

"A lot of times, if an offender has made a decision to kill, things may seem calm in the home again, because your offender doesn’t want to alert you to their intentions,” said Lance.

Police said Mayra Garcia and Jayden Taylor were stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend in their home on Oct. 7.

Garcia took out an order of protection and filed a police report one week before the attack.

"If someone is intent on killing you, you can do everything right, and they still might be successful," said Verna Wyatt, with Tennessee Voices for Victims.

News4 Investigates discovered Jermaine Agee, Garcia’s ex-boyfriend, had a violent criminal history.

Wyatt said resources for the only the victim are not enough.

"If there's not some kind of assessment tool to determine the lethality of this individual and his likelihood of reoffending again, somebody needs to make one," she said. "What are we doing to make sure that the offender isn't going to on to either kill his victim, or move on to another victim where he batters and abuses her?"

The following are signs someone in your life may be a victim of domestic abuse:

  • Dressing unseasonably
  • Repeated phone calls from the offender and other controlling behavior
  • Victim is never available for social engagements - goes to work, then straight home
  • Explaining away bruises 
  • Extreme jealousy, belittling, criticism from the offender
  • An offender who abuses pets

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Reporter

Rebecca Cardenas is a Murrow-award winning journalist who joined News4 as a reporter in September 2017. She currently covers the court systems in Middle Tennessee.

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