Domestic violence blamed for rising homicide rate (Wisconsin)

Wausau Dailty Herald

With 11 cases of homicide in the past 26 months in the Wausau area, the most heinous crime a person can commit is happening with disturbing regularity.

There have been three cases of homicide each year since 2006 in Marathon County and two homicides in the past two years in Lincoln County. In some incidents, the killer took his or her own life.

Prior to 2006, there were 13 reported cases of homicide between 1996 and 2005 in the two counties, according to law enforcement agencies.

“It’s been a bit overwhelming,” said Everest Metro Police Chief Dan Vergin, whose department has handled five of the cases. “Somehow someone has it in their head to deal with problems and their relationships this way.”

Killings statewide increased by 11 percent from 2006 to 2007, according to preliminary data from the State Office of Justice Assistance. Homicides are down about 24 percent statewide between 1998 and 2007.

Domestic violence lies at the heart of many local killings, including this weekend’s homicide-suicide in Weston.

Wausau Police Chief Jeff Hardel said Marathon County has a high rate of domestic violence compared with the rest of Wisconsin and the nation. Alcohol and drug problems compound the issue, he said.

Reported cases of domestic violence in Marathon County have risen from 422 in 1997 to 703 in 2006, according to the Life report, a biannual report published by the United Way examining quality of life.

People can help prevent domestic abuse-related fatalities by calling police about fights, threats and violence in their neighborhood, Hardel said. When police review a case, they typically see a pattern of violence, he said.

“If we want to get to the root of the issue and change society norms, we have to take ownership of those situations,” Hardel said.

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