Domestic violence: Law enforcement, statistics and the real face of the problem

October 17, 2012 • Local News

Nationally, statistics indicate that 1 in 4 people will be affected by domestic violence; three people will die every day. The local statistics for 2012 reveal the breadth of the problem. The Roswell Refuge compiles domestic violence calls using the figures provided by dispatch. Executive director Michelle Royer warned that the statistics c[auth] an be deceiving. These represent only the tip of the iceberg. “Most incidents of domestic violence are never reported to the police,” she said.

January and March were the worst months with 66 and 74 reported incidents, respectively, and 22 arrests. The fewest number of calls occurred in July and September, with a total of 40. The year to date total is 505 calls and more than 50 arrests.

The figures reported by the Roswell Police Department are recorded by crime. According to its most recent figures from June 2012, there were 39 arrests for verbal abuse, 6 for battery and 2 for aggravated battery, for a total of 47 arrests related to a family violence.

Often domestic violence is not recorded as such, so an incident is reported by an officer as arson after a person’s ex burns all her clothing in the backyard, or as threats or harassment when a victim finds a teddy bear left in her house by her husband with a knife embedded in its neck and all the family photos shredded. Both incidents took place in Roswell during the past two weeks. Even burglaries and larcenies may stem from a domestic dispute where a partner comes into a home and removes disputed items.

Meanwhile the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office serves between 40 to 50 temporary restraining orders each month, or somewhere between 480 and 600 per year. Lt. Daniel Ornelas, who now sits on the board of the Roswell Refuge, feels domestic violence is serious for a number of reasons. “Sometimes they are the most dangerous calls you can go on.”

He can give no firm figures on the number of calls received by the SO. “There can be two to three calls a night. Sometimes there’s nothing.

Other nights we can get up to 10 calls,” Ornelas said.

Chief Al Solis said the RPD takes these cases seriously. “We put full focus on domestic violence and work in cooperation with the DA’s office to get convictions.”

Convictions, though, can be hard fought because many people still believe the victim must have done something to deserve it. Some rest on the old adage that it is a husband’s right to hit his wife. District Attorney Janetta Hicks perseveres because she views each successful conviction of a domestic violence case as “homicide prevention.”

The following is a list of local people killed by domestic violence. It is reprinted with the permission of Roswell Refuge. The names reveal the depth of the problem in Chaves County.

•Malinda Gutierrez died in 1998, age 29, when her husband shot her in the head. She left behind a 6-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old son.

•Pegye Jann Marshall died in 1997 just four days after her birthday at the age of 38. Her husband took her out on a boat ride to celebrate their anniversary. He hit her in the head, put her body into a plastic bag and threw her into the sea. Pegye was survived by a 9-month-old son, a 2-year-old son, and a 3-year-old daughter.

•Rosa Cortez died in 1994 at the age of 24. She was killed by an ex-boyfriend who shot her five times. Rosa’s brother was also wounded in the attack. He is paralyzed. She left three children, a 4-month-old daughter, a 4-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son.

•Ruben Olivarria died a hero in 2004. He was 64. Ruben was shot in the chest while protecting his daughter from her estranged husband. Ruben left behind a loving wife, a son, and four daughters.

•Susan Amos Bravo died in 2003, age 27. She was murdered in her home two days after her divorce papers were signed, strangled with an electrical cord and then stabbed. Susan left a 2-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son.

The list is not complete. New names need to be added, but for now are withheld until the offenders’ trials are completed.

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