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Oct 07 2009

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Report sheds light on domestic violence dangers

By Russell Plummer, fdlreporter.com

Local law enforcement officials agree that a domestic violence call is one of the most volatile situations an officer may get involved with.

A Sept. 29 report from the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WCADV) highlights how tensions between couples and family members can turn deadly.

The WCADV reports that 33 domestic violence homicides resulted in 46 deaths in 2008. No domestic homicides were reported in Fond du Lac and Dodge counties in 2008.

“The release of the Wisconsin Domestic Violence Homicide Report provides an opportunity to mourn the loss of domestic violence victims, reflect on the cost of domestic violence in our communities and articulate and advocate for policies that will prevent violence in future years,” said Patti Seger, executive director of WCADV, in a press release.

The numbers are not expected to improve this year.

WCADV is predicting 2009 may have the highest domestic homicide rate since the report was first published in 2000. Twenty-seven cases with 30 victims were added to the database through July.

Two domestic homicides — one in Fond du Lac County and one in Dodge County — will be included in the 2009 statistics.

On Jan. 9, the Fond du Lac County Sheriff’s Department responded to a murder-suicide in the town of Eldorado that shocked the community.

The first deputies on the scene had little time to react as Kurt Hinkley shot his wife, Julie Hinkley, outside their Town Hall Road home before turning the gun on himself.

On July 13, Larry Henry of Waupun walked to the Waupun Police Department to report a problem with his wife, Tammy. Officers found the woman dead in the home. Larry Henry is in jail on $250,000 bond. He is charged with first-degree intentional homicide in Dodge County Circuit Court. A trial date has not been set.

In 2008, at least 15 minor children and 25 adult children in Wisconsin lost a mother, father or both as a result of a domestic violence homicide. Firearms were used in nearly half of the deaths, three children were killed and 12 children were at the scene of a homicide, according to WCADV.

Unknown danger
Devra Ayala, Fond du Lac County assistant district attorney for domestic abuse and sexual assault cases, said domestic violence — often fueled by alcohol and/or drugs — typically does not end after the first unreported incident.

“Most of the cases are not isolated. There are some that you only see (the offender) once,” Ayala said. “It is situational where someone made a poor decision or people are really stressed out. For the most part, when you see domestic violence, it’s a trend within a relationship.”

The Fond du Lac Police Department realizes the potential danger in a domestic violence situation and sends at least two officers to every call, said Capt. Steve Klein.

“Usually, the emotion levels are very intense and there is a hyper-propensity of bodily harm to all of the people involved, including officers,” Klein said.

On Oct. 19, 2003, Green Lake County Deputy Bruce Williams was shot and killed while responding to a domestic violence call.

“Bruce Williams was somebody I went to recruit school with. I knew him quite well,” Klein said.

The suspect shot Williams with an automatic rifle when Williams exited a squad car, said Klein.

Officers attempt to find out as much information as possible before entering a home where violence has been reported. They are trying to determine if weapons are present, if those involved have been drinking and if there is a history of violence, Klein added.

Due to the size of Fond du Lac County, a Sheriff’s Department deputy often enters a home alone, says Sheriff Mick Fink.

“We don’t have the luxury of waiting for a backup officer,” he said. “Deputies are asked many times to go in alone. It isn’t the best police procedure or practice, but our deputies are not going to stand outside while somebody in the house is being injured.”

Sometimes all parties involved will turn on an officer when the victim realizes his or her spouse or significant other is going to be arrested, Fink said.

“Deputies, by nature and by the geography of the county, have to sometimes be silver-tongued devils to keep the situation at bay until backup arrives,” he said.

Potential impact
Domestic violence, whether reported or not, has a greater impact on the community than most people realize, said Klein.

“A lot of times people think domestic violence occurs behind closed doors. That is the case, but it has an overall effect on the community,” Klein said. “You have to realize the children in the home have to go to school the next day. The combatants and the victims have to go to work the next day. They bring that (tension) into the workplace.”

If the alleged offender is not held in jail, steps are taken to keep the victim safe, said Ayala.

“The court issues a no contact order. Whether or not they follow it is another story,” she said. “The court does try to protect the victims.”

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