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Bar News - November 16, 2012

Half of NH Murders Were Domestic-Violence Related


Domestic violence played a role in half of all murders in New Hampshire over the past decade, but only a small fraction of the victims ever sought help, even though 53 percent of perpetrators had a known history of domestic violence.

A new report released in October by the Governorís Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence revealed that domestic violence remains a significant problem in the Granite State, particularly in the more rural counties. The report analyzed domestic violence homicides from 2001 to 2010.

In releasing the report, Attorney General Michael Delaney noted only two victims had a protective order in place when they died. "The one thing that jumped out at me was the low percentage of homicide victims who had some contact with crisis centers," Delaney said at the press conference.

Kim France, executive director of the New Hampshire Commission Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said there is not sufficient funding to provide services and enhance awareness that protection is available. Last year, France said, 16,496 people sought domestic violence services, an increase of 3 percent. (See related article about the Barís Domestic Violence Emergency Project, DOVE.)

The study revealed some patterns: Sullivan County had the highest rate of domestic violence homicide per capita at 1.17 per 100,000 people - nearly double the statewide average.

In 2011, there were eight domestic violence homicides in the state out of 22 total non-justifiable homicides. Of the DV cases, four were partner homicides and four involved family members. Compared with the prior year, the total number of homicides increased in 2011, but the percentage of domestic violence homicides decreased, from 63 to 36 percent. That proportion reached its height in 2004, when 68 percent of all non-justifiable homicides were related to domestic violence, according to the report.

Between 2001 and 2010, 66 percent of murders in Belknap and Cheshire counties and 62 percent of murders in Sullivan County were domestic violence-related, compared with 54 percent in Hillsborough County and 36 percent in Strafford County, the report showed. Of the 159 total non-justifiable homicides in the state between 2001 and 2010, 79 were related to domestic violence.

The report also showed that few domestic violence victims seek help from the stateís network of shelters and crisis centers. Only 6 percent of domestic violence homicide victims had sought help prior to death, and only 4 percent had a protective order in place when they were killed.

In 2011, a total of 4,616 domestic violence petitions were filed across the state. In 79 percent of cases, a temporary protective order was granted. Of the 3,124 cases that reached the final-order stage that year, 55 percent were denied the one-year protective order. In 88 percent of cases, the plaintiff was not represented by an attorney. In stalking cases, the report showed, 96 percent of plaintiffs were not represented.

The report also provided background information about the victims and perpetrators of these crimes. The average age of victims was 38, while the average age of perpetrators was 41. Firearms were used in 48 percent of domestic violence-related homicides, which typically occurred in summer or fall and most frequently on Sundays. More than 70 percent of domestic violence homicides in NH over the past decade have occurred between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

For more information about the Governorís Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence and to read the full report.

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