Everybody's Business

Murder-suicide, mass shootings link to domestic violence

By Malinda Williams
Posted 8/8/19

Last month, a popular Tejana singer and her estranged husband were found dead in a car outside her workplace in Santa Fe. Police said Ernestine Saucedo, 32, who sang under her maiden name of …

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Everybody's Business

Murder-suicide, mass shootings link to domestic violence

Posted

Last month, a popular Tejana singer and her estranged husband were found dead in a car outside her workplace in Santa Fe. Police said Ernestine Saucedo, 32, who sang under her maiden name of Ernestine Romero, was apparently shot twice in the chest by her husband, Jessie Saucedo, 34, before he turned the 9mm handgun on himself.

Santa Fe police quickly labeled the homicide as a "murder-suicide," and pointed to a "prior history of domestic disputes." A subsequent search warrant was made public, confirming that while the couple was still legally married, they had been living apart for several weeks due to "ongoing marital dispute."

Once again, we read about a situation where domestic violence likely occurred prior to the deaths, but apparently no one reported their suspicions to the authorities. Without law enforcement and community members taking suspected DV seriously, nothing is done to head off a tragedy like this.

And those phrases - "murder-suicide," "prior history of domestic disputes" and "ongoing marital dispute" - all mean the same thing: DV was at the root of this tragedy.

From my perspective, domestic violence is most often underplayed as a cause of death. I've heard many, many news reports that "no one knows the reason why so-and-so decided to stalk and murder former girlfriend/spouse and then kill himself." It is infuriating that after all the information available today that we, collectively, ignore DV.

In the simplest of terms, the loss (or threat of loss) of the power and control the abusive person has over their victim is what leads the DV perpetrator to commit these murders. I believe journalists and authorities miscategorizing these situations perpetuate myths of domestic violence and the extreme dangers involved with this type of secrecy and denial.

We also know the possession of a firearm is another contributor and serious increase to homicide/suicide risks. We live in a state reticent to pass laws to keep firearms out of the hands of perpetrators of interpersonal violence. New Mexico is in the top 10 nationally for the highest rate of men killing women. The New Mexico Intimate Partner Death Review Team has consistently recommended - based on its reviews of homicides in New Mexico - passing state laws barring gun purchase or possession by people convicted of DV or under a DV restraining/protective order.

Finally, in our 2019 New Mexico legislative session, Senate Bill 328 was signed into law. It requires that if a court determines a person is a perpetrator of domestic violence, that person must relinquish their firearms, for the safety of the victim and the community.

What about our nation's horrific continuing mass shootings? The majority are related to domestic violence. According to Everytown.org's analysis of mass shootings from 2009 to 2017 (where four or more people are shot and killed, not including the shooter), in more than 54 percent of these incidents, "the perpetrator shot a current or former intimate partner or family member." In approximately 40 percent of mass shootings, there were red flags - recognized as warning signs by the National Institute of Justice - like threats to others, suicide threats and violations of orders of protection, among others.

In a future column we will talk about these red flags and other indicators of lethality in relationships having DV. If you, your partner/ex-partner or someone you know is threatening suicide or homicide, take it very seriously. Call 911 or local law enforcement or CAV's confidential 24-hour hotline at (575) 758-9888.

Malinda Williams is the executive director of Community Against Violence, Inc. (CAV) which offers free confidential support and assistance for adult and child survivors of sexual and domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking; community and school violence prevention programs; reeducation BIP groups for domestic violence offenders; shelter; and a community thrift store. To talk with someone or get information on services available, call CAV's 24-hour crisis line at (575) 758-9888. Contact TaosCAV.org.

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