Domestic Violence and Murder

Murdered Wives and Girlfriends

 “Women and girls have banded together to fight for themselves because no one else would do it.” – Rachael Denhollander, American lawyer and former gymnast. She was the first woman to publicly accuse Larry Nassar, the former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor, of sexual assault. Denhollander is a TIME 100 honoree and a 2018 Glamour Woman of the Year.

*Red text indicates a link to the original source of information.

“Three-quarters of domestic violence homicides by men are committed after she leaves.”

These are not acts that happen in the middle of an argument or are considered crimes of passion. These are acts that are carefully planned because the abuser believes she has no right to leave.  He also doesn’t want her to find happiness, nor does the abuser want anyone else to have her.

It’s important to remember when someone reports abuse and you can’t imagine the accused abuser is capable of what’s been reported, that abusers are grand actors and liars. If often takes years for the victim to come to understand and come to terms with the abuse…and they are the one being abused. Of course, an outsider would doubt.

You may think: He’s always been a great guy; we hung out together, did Bible study together, shared meals in each other’s homes, watched each other’s kids on occasion.  He was never angry, aggressive, rude, controlling or anything negative. I never saw him acting abusively toward his wife or children.

Those things can all be true because abusers rarely abuse everyone they come in contact with; it’s usually immediate family members, a romantic interest, and occasionally acquaintances or co-workers.

Did scripture point out anyone suspecting King David of murdering Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband after David abused his power and raped her? (She had no choice. He was the king). David plotted, deceived, and covered- up Uriah’s murder.  Those under David’s command or in his network of friends may have said something like this:  “David is a man of faith; he defeated Goliath when he was still a young man, he was a terrific friend to Jonathan, he cared for Saul’s crippled grandson Mephibosheth, he spent time with his God. I know David and I know he would never do that.”

We should never be surprised when someone we know does something out of character for them. We never know what is going on in someone else’s personal life, heart, or mind.

Pondering an unsolved death

I’ve been writing about a Missouri woman for the last few years who I think was killed by her husband. Did she discover another woman and decided to leave? Did her husband want more than one woman in his bedroom and she decided she wouldn’t go along with it? Did she think she was in an abusive relationship and decide to leave? Was she devastated after her years of faithfulness to know he wasn’t faithful? Did she think he had tried to kill her through accidents and prescription drug problems and decided her life was in danger? Was there a different reason? What she may not have known is that the probability of murder goes up when a victim decides to leave. We know three-quarters of domestic violence homicides are committed by men at the time of leaving, or after she leaves.

“Many victims realistically fear that their abusive partners’ actions will become more violent and even lethal if they attempt to leave. The abuser may have threatened to kill them or hurt their child or family member if they leave.”

“Many abused people leave and return several times before permanently separating from the abusive partner. In fact, it takes many survivors approximately 7 attempts before they actually leave their abusive partner permanently.”

1st degree or 2nd degree murder

Missouri needs to work better when it comes to justice for women murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.

Most often the murderer is charged with 2nd degree murder. Why not 1st degree? Is it because women typically don’t have as much worth as men and juries rule by this erroneous standard?

What justifies first degree murder in the state of Missouri?

First degree murder is the most serious of the homicide crimes in Missouri. In order to prove that the defendant committed first degree murder, the prosecutor must show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intentionally and deliberately killed a person without a legally justified reason (such as a police officer shooting an armed bank robber with hostages). Serial murderers who kill for fun and individuals who plot and execute a revenge killing of someone who allegedly slighted them would both be examples of first-degree murder.

Missouri first degree murder laws treat the offense as a very serious crime. The penalties are based on the circumstances of the crime. If the criteria for first degree murder isn’t met, the defendant may still be found guilty of a lesser murder charge, such as: second degree murder (killing without premeditation), voluntary manslaughter (“heat of passion murder”), or involuntary manslaughter (an accidental killing).

Missouri domestic violence homicides that made the news in 2019:

This summer a St. Louis woman managed to catch her own murder on her cell phone. Her video recorded her husband beating her in a parking garage near Busch Stadium. That husband was only charged with assault…and it was on video. Then in September the charges were dropped. We are still waiting to find out if new charges will be filed. “Court records show that Jenkins had previous run-ins with the law, even while working as a correctional officer. He faced felony aggravated battery charges on two separate occasions, and pleaded guilty to a lowered charge of misdemeanor battery in both cases. He received 18 months probation for the first offense in 2012 and 24 months probation and two days in jail for the second offense in 2017. A woman requested a protective order in 2012 that would bar him from contacting her, but a judge dismissed the complaint.”

Last year an elderly man from Arnold murdered his wife by shooting her in their living room recliner. He received probation. No time served.  

The 2006 disappearance of Megan Shultz led to her remains likely recovered in a Columbia, Missouri, landfill. “Police Chief Geoff Jones says that while evidence points to the remains being those of Schultz. Police began the dig after Shultz’s former husband, 37-year-old Keith Alan Comfort, allegedly confessed to killing her and putting the body in a trash bin. Comfort is now charged with second-degree murder.

“CLAYTON, MO – The St. Louis County woman found dead in Lincoln County one week ago was pregnant when she died, according to a source close to the investigation. The source adds, the woman’s husband, who is charged with her murder, was having an affair. Beau Rothwell, 28, is being held at the St. Louis County Justice Center without bond. He is charged with second-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence in connection with the death of his wife, Jennifer.”

Bobette Everhart-Boal, 59, had filed for divorce from her husband, Michael C. Boal, 59, in August, and a hearing in the case was scheduled for Thursday, December 14, 2019. Sunday, December 8, 2019, she was found dead in Chesterfield shortly before her husband’s body was found after a fire at their former home in Wildwood. Investigators believe that Michael Boal killed his wife, then set the house on fire to kill himself.

The husband of  missing Missouri woman, Mengqi Ji Elledge, allegedly took a “long drive through unfamiliar remote areas” of the state before he reported her disappearance to police, according to court documents filed with his arrest last week. Those details came in court documents identifying Joseph Elledge as the subject of an investigation into the disappearance of his wife, 28-year-old Mengqi Ji Elledge, who has been missing for three weeks and was last seen Oct. 8, 2019. Joseph Elledge has been arrested on charges of child abuse and his bond was set at $500,000. Law enforcement began “searching the Lamine River in Cooper County November 26, 2019. Crews have searched an area near the De Bourgmont access point 10 times.”

“MAYSVILLE, Mo. – The 49-year-old boyfriend of a Cameron woman whose body was found at a Maysville home has been charged in her death. Kenneth Wykert is charged with second-degree murder and abandonment of a corpse in the death of Leah Dawson.”   He said he was going to kill her. Later he told an inmate he killed her accidently when she said she was going to leave him.

“December 31, 2019, SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Authorities have found the body of a missing 19-year-old woman and are investigating her death as a homicide. Officers discovered the body Mackenna Milhon on Monday afternoon outside a home north of Springfield. Police and the Greene County Sheriff’s Office said she had been reported missing Dec. 20.”

“A St. Louis man who was facing domestic assault charges in jail posted $5,000 bail thanks to a non-profit group, then allegedly went to his wife’s home and beat her to death. Prosecutors have charged Samuel Lee Scott, 54, with first degree murder. Scott was initially arrested on April 5 and accused of hitting his wife, Marcia Johnson, in the face, injuring her ear and cheekbone back in January. He had also threatened to kill her, according to a probable cause statement.”

Mexico, MO. • A man convicted of killing his wife and dumping her body in a septic tank more than 20 years ago was sentenced Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Douglas Howery, 60, was found guilty of first-degree murder last year in the 1992 disappearance and death of his wife, Betty Ann Howery, 44, of St. Charles. She vanished in February 1992 after a night at their family farm in Annada, Mo., in Pike County near the Mississippi River. She was missing until October 2008, when a crew bulldozing the land found her skeleton in an abandoned septic tank. Authorities found a .38-caliber revolver in the septic tank where Betty Howery’s body was discovered.”

“O’FALLON (AP) – A St. Charles County man is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife.
Police arrested 42-year-old Michael Rone of O’Fallon on Saturday. Authorities say he admitted killing 38-year-old Stacey Rone during an argument.
Michael Rone is jailed on $250,000 bond and does not yet have a listed attorney.
Police say Stacey Rone’s relatives found her dead Thursday. She had been strangled.” As a side note: strangulation is a favorite tool of dominations for domestic abusers. If a woman has been strangled once, and lived to tell about it, her chances of dying by her abuser go up greatly.

 “58-year-old Delores Kirk was pronounced dead at the scene. Police took Kirk’s boyfriend into custody as a person of interest. The interim police chief said he expects the boyfriend will be charged. Kirk’s family was left grieving Tuesday, saying her boyfriend was abusive and the violence culminated with her death. St. Louis County court officials confirmed Kirk was granted a temporary restraining order against her boyfriend in January. However, the case was dropped after neither Kirk nor her boyfriend showed up for a court hearing.”

Abuse survivors on average file a petition for a protective order against their abuser seven to eight times before going to their hearing to receive it, or leaving the abuser.

“KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A Missouri man was found guilty Friday of first degree murder for murdering his wife after the couple’s daughter found the woman’s body in the basement. According to court documents, police found Melissa Byers’ body covered with carpet, sheets, clothing and plastic. A medical examiner said she died from multiple stab wounds.

Here is a national murder from 2019

November 2019 the jury convicted Patrick Frazee of first-degree murder in the killing of Kelsey Berreth. Prosecutors believe Berreth was murdered in her Woodland Park home in Colorado. She was last seen on Thanksgiving Day 2018 on security video at a grocery store. Her body has not been found.

2 unsolved local cases

There are two local cases in which families of deceased women continue waiting for charges to be filed in the death of their loved ones; Amanda Jones and Lynn Messer.

According to family members, Amanda’s case and evidence were not professionally or properly investigated, processed, or taken seriously from day one. Amanda Kay Jones was 8 1/2 months pregnant when she disappeared. The alleged father of her unborn child, Brian Westfall, is reportedly the last known person to see her. The two met at the Hillsboro Civic Center on August 14, 2005, at 1:00 p.m. During the meeting, Amanda answered a call on her cell phone at approximately 1:15p.m. After the meeting, no one else is known to have seen or heard from Amanda. Later that night, Amanda’s blue 1997 Pontiac Sunfire was found unlocked and abandoned in the Civic Center parking lot. Her purse, car keys, wallet, and cell phone have not been found.

Lynn Messer disappeared July 8, 2014. We now know that Lynn has been deceased the entire time and I have been told by law enforcement that Kerry Messer, her husband, has not been cleared in the investigation surrounding Lynn’s death.  Kerry is a Missouri state lobbyist who represents family, homeschooling, right-to-life, gun safety, and Christian/Biblical values. Upon her disappearance, the family farm where Lynn lived with her husband was mapped with grids and searched by rescue and recovery teams, along with trained search and rescue dogs. Searching was done by air, foot, and all-terrain vehicles; by day and by night.  Rescue dogs are trained in locating human remains by tracking, trailing, and air scenting. This should have been an easy job in the outdoor air of the extreme summer heat during July and August. Law enforcement did not find Lynn in those early days and were certain she was not on the farm. Three years ago, November 1, 2016, Lynn’s remains were found on the farm; recovered from the direction of the scent found that first morning in 2014.

On Lynn’s death certificate the state could have listed the cause of death as ‘unknown’. They didn’t.

Instead it says, ‘MANNER: PENDING INVESTIGATION’ 

‘UNDETERMINED AT THIS TIME’

The death certificate does not say ‘Could Not Be Determined’. Undetermined at this time leaves legal room to easily come back and make changes to the certificate. This case is not closed and the death certificate gives me hope that #JusticeForLynn does exist.

Ste. Genevieve Country Prosecuting Attorney Wayne Williams is quoted in an article by Leader Publications, written by Laura Marlow as saying about the Lynn Messer case, “We have to be very careful,” he said. “Because, if we file charges and it goes to a jury trial and we lose, double jeopardy forever bars us from bringing any charges again. On the other hand, there is no statute of limitations on a homicide.

For more information on domestic abuse that ends in murder, check out:

This is the ‘last warning shot’ before a man kills his partner

Expert: Choking strongly predicts homicide

Dawn Elizabeth Wilcox is a domestic abuse advocate and nurse who tracks America’s epidemic of murdered women. You may find her on Facebook at Women Count USA

92% of female murder victims are killed by a man they know.

DomesticShelters.org

Police say 11 questions can reduce domestic violence. Why aren’t more police officers asking them?

If you are in a destructive relationship, please contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline. It is free, confidential, and judgement free. Safety Alert: Computer use can be monitored and is impossible to completely clear. If you are afraid your internet usage might be monitored, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224

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