It's the ultimate act of domestic violence. Murder-suicides are happening almost weekly in the Midstate.
Tennessee ranks fifth in the nation for domestic violence where men kill women. In Metro Davidson County, domestic violence-related killings account for 15% of all homicides.
The victims leave behind family, friends, and loved ones who live with the pain of asking what could have been done differently?
Advocates say there are ways to protect yourself and your family from a deadly domestic incident.
“When that happens, basically the perpetrator is saying the victim can't have a life without him or her,” Kathy Walsh, executive director for the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic Violence said.
Walsh knows it's never easy to talk about. Domestic violence can happen to anyone.
She says murder-suicides can happen any time of year.
“We don't believe that holidays causes domestic violence,” Walsh said. “We don't believe stress causes domestic violence. Because if that were true, there'd be many more people committing these crimes.”
In October, a Columbia mother killed her four children before turning the gun on herself.
A month later, 55-year-old Jerry Matthews stabbed his wife Emma Teeters and her father Terry Teeters, before Terry shot and killed Matthews. This wasn't a murder-suicide, but still was a domestic dispute turned deadly.
The very next day, in West Meade, 65-year-old Gail Andrews Miller killed her 97-year-old mother and her and her sister before turning the gun on herself. This happened the day before Thanksgiving.
Last week, two men were killed in an apparent murder-suicide at a South Nashville home.
And, Sunday in Smyrna, 43-year-old James Barnes allegedly shot and killed his wife, 32-year-old Tiffany Barnes before killing himself. Their four children were all home at the time of the shooting and were not injured.
“It impacts their friends, their workplace, their churches, because we see it in every level of our society and within every single profession,” said Walsh.
Watching for the warning signs can save lives.
Having a personalized and practical "safety plan" is key to staying safe if you're planning to leave, and especially after leaving an abusive relationship.
- Identify safe areas of the house where there are no weapons and there are ways to escape.
- Don't run to where the children are, as your partner may hurt them as well.
- Let trusted friends and neighbors know of your situation and develop a plan and visual signal for when you need help.
Practice how to get out safely and practice with your children.
- Teach your children how to get help, while not getting involved. Plan a code word to signal to them that they should get help or leave the house.
- Make a habit of backing the car into the driveway and keeping it fueled. Keep the driver's door unlocked and others locked for a quick escape.
- Keep weapons like guns and knives locked away and as inaccessible as possible.
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