Cases of murder-suicide are often about control
At least 20 have been investigated in central Ohio since January 2006
Monday, August 10, 2009 10:00 PM
BY JOHN FUTTY
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
The death of a 39-year-old Columbus man and his 32-year-old girlfriend in a murder-suicide today was the third such tragedy in central Ohio in the past week.
All three fit the pattern seen by a researcher who has studied murder-suicides in the U.S. for 15 years.
In the majority of cases, a man is the perpetrator, and the victim is a current or former spouse or girlfriend, said Donna Cohen, a professor at the University of South Florida.
"The perpetrator is extremely attached" to the victim with "a strong sense of control," she said. "Usually what precipitates the act is a belief that there's something imminent that is going to take away that control."
No national database exists to track murder-suicides, so Cohen monitors the cases through newspaper accounts.
Her survey counted 145 murder-suicides in Ohio from 2000 to 2008, ranking the state eighth in the nation. Florida led the nation with 575 such cases, many of which involved older men who were distraught about the failing health of their spouses, she said.
Of the roughly 20,000 homicides and 30,000 suicides each year in the U.S., between 1,500 and 2,500 deaths are a result of murder-suicide, Cohen estimated.
"It is relatively rare, but it affects families and communities for years to come," she said.
Based on a review of Dispatch archives, authorities have investigated at least 20 murder-suicides in central Ohio since January 2006. Of those, 15 involved current or former spouses or partners.
The perpetrators usually are suffering from depression or other "significant mental-health problems" and have contemplated the act "for a long period," Cohen said.
Statistics suggest that cases of murder-suicide might be increasing slightly, which Cohen said could be attributed to increasing mental illness in the population as well as growing stress in society.
She said family members, friends and co-workers of victims often are aware of problems that precede murder-suicide. But, she said, they don't intervene.
"There are a lot of things that can be done to increase awareness," Cohen said. "People shouldn't be afraid to recommend resources, to know where a shelter is or how to contact a domestic-violence program."
Dispatch information specialist Julie Albert provided research for this story.
Victims of domestic violence can seek help by contacting the Buckeye Regional Anti-Violence Organization at 1-866-862-7286 or CHOICES for Victims of Domestic Violence at 614-224-4663.Cases,Ohio,January,August,JOHN,COLUMBUS,DISPATCH,death,tragedy,researcher,perpetrator,victim,spouse,Donna,Cohen,professor,South,Florida,belief,database,newspaper,nation,health,result,authorities,partners,depression,problems,period,Statistics,population,friends,workers,victims,People,violence,Julie,Albert,Buckeye,Regional,Anti,Organization,Domestic,spouses,homicides,deaths,members,suicide,girlfriend,suicides
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