Domestic Killings Worry Officials; They See Rising Violence in Relationships

Article excerpt

Byline: DANA TREEN

Authorities are worried about a sharp rise in domestic violence-related homicides they believe points to an growing lack of respect for one another in relationships.

In Jacksonville, for example, there have been nine domestic abuse-related homicides this year, compared to three in the same time period last year.

Victims have ranged from infants to the elderly and included mates and parents.

Combined, Duval and Nassau counties recorded 11 domestic homicides so far in 2006. Clay and St. Johns have none, although one is pending a determination in St. Johns County.

In 2005, there were 13 in all four counties together.

"There's nothing that separates these cases from the cases we've investigated in the last few years," said Assistant Chief Rick Graham of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. "The circumstances are not any different than they were the year before."

Statistics recently released by the FBI show while violent crime was up 2.5 percent nationally in 2005, it decreased in Jacksonville, including forcible rape and aggravated assault categories.

Jacksonville's latest domestic homicide case, the death of 24-year-old mother Ykesha M. Robinson, whose body was found in a shallow grave off Hecksher Drive near Big Talbot Island State Park, had signs of abuse.

"There was some evidence of previous verbal abuse and physical abuse," Graham said.

Graham would not discuss other details because the case is still active against Bryant Raynard Payne, the father of Robinson's infant son. On April 21, three days after Robinson disappeared, Payne was charged murder in her death.

Prosecutor Libby Senterfitt, who heads a special assault unit and reviews domestic violence cases for the State Attorney's Office, said it is troubling that many victims keep the abuse to themselves.

Often with these families "there had been no prior intervention because no help had been sought," she said. Recognizing there is a problem is key to finding a solution, she said.

"We end up seeing a whole lot of cases where there didn't tend to be a whole lot or any intervention."

A troubling trend in violence among intimate couples involves teens, said Al Emerick, director of community education for Hubbard House, a woman's shelter that serves Duval, Baker and Nassau counties.

"Teen dating violence is rampant right now," he said.

The American Bar Association published statistics from studies that show nearly 25 percent of 14- to 17-year-olds know at least one student who was a victim of dating violence. About one in five female high school students report being physically or sexually abused by a dating partner.

Emerick said the behavior could have multiple roots, from personal experience to music. …