Editor’s note: This overview of domestic violence is the first of four stories taking a look at the situation in Northeast Mississippi for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Daily Journal reporters will explore the victims and abusers and why it happens as well as what can be done to halt the cycle of domestic violence, starting with youth.
By DANZA JOHNSON
TUPELO – More often than not when a police officer gets called to a home, it’s for domestic violence and often someone has been hurt – sometimes even killed.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson encourages everyone to think about the issue locally. The crime makes up more than 70 percent of the calls his deputies go on.
“Domestic violence is a problem that’s larger than most people think,” said Johnson. “Seven out of 10 times my deputies are called out it’s because someone has been in a domestic dispute. Those are the calls that put us in jeopardy. Domestic violence is a very serious crime because those situations can go from calm to tragic in no time.”
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence defines domestic violence as “the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault and/or other abusive behavior perpetrated by an intimate partner against others.”
According to the Domestic Violence Resource Center, 1 in 4 women will be a victim of domestic violence. Although men can be harmed with domestic violence, women account for 85 percent of intimate partner violence, as opposed to 15 percent for men.
Johnson said domestic violence is far broader than a husband beating his wife and vice versa. He said domestic violence can involve a parent and a child, siblings going against one another and many other various family situations that result in physical confrontation.
On Sept. 20, Lisa Sandlin, 44, was charged with the shooting death of her 36-year-old stepson, Kirk Sandlin, at a house in Saltillo. Johnson said the incident stemmed from a domestic dispute.
Lisa Sandlin is currently in the Lee County Jail under a $250,000 bond on a single count of murder. The case will be presented to a grand jury in March.
“We don’t really know what happened, but we do know it was domestic in nature and that’s what happens in many of these situations,” said Johnson. “An argument turns into something far worse and someone ends up getting hurt.”
Other recent cases include:
– On Sept. 29, 47-year-old Johnny Mathis Bell of Byhalia shot and killed his wife, 47-year-old Connie Yancey Bell, before fatally shooting himself outside of a warehouse in Olive Branch where she worked.
– In June, police charged David Neal Cox, Sr., 39, with the capital murder of his estranged wife Kim Cox, 40, and the kidnapping of her two children. Cox allegedly held the two children hostage, one of which was his biological child, for several hours after shooting Kim Cox. David Neal Cox. Sr. remains in the Union County Jail where he is being held without bond.
New laws, new reports
Lanette Sandlin handles domestic violence cases for the Tupelo Police Department and said she has been piled high with reports since taking the job in July.
“This is something I have to deal with on a daily basis,” said Sandlin. “And it’s something that we don’t see ending. We just have to deal with it and do our best to assist the victims and arrest the abusers.”
Sandlin said some changes to the law have increased felony arrests for domestic violence. When a person is arrested for domestic violence a third time, it is a felony. Before the law changed in July, choking a person was a misdemeanor. Now the first act of choking is a felony. Sandlin said she has already sent four felony domestic choking cases to the grand jury.
“In the past we’d have a person who’d choke a victim because they knew it was a misdemeanor,” said Sandlin. “But now it’s an automatic felony, so we hope this will at least deter people from doing that. Often abusers will use choking because the physical scars aren’t as evident.”
Unlike some crimes, with domestic violence the victim doesn’t have to file charges against their attacker. If sufficient evidence exists that abuse has occurred, police by law have to file the charges against the accused offender.
The longer domestic violence occurs, the more likely someone will be seriously injured or killed. Almost one-third of female homicide victims are killed by intimate partners, according to the NCADV.
Johnson said prolonged periods of domestic violence can turn into tragic stories.
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal