For release on July 5, 2018
Assistant District Attorney
Family Violence Unit
DV REPORT: ELDER MURDER-SUICIDES TREND, OVERALL DEATHS RISE
There were six more domestic violence-related deaths last year than the year before in Santa Clara County, according to the 2017 DV Death Review Team’s Report released today.
Another troubling trend: four of the 13 deaths came from the murder-suicides of two long-married, elderly couples. One of the male perpetrators was an 81-year-old man who had been married to the victim for more than 60 years.
Assistant District Attorney Cindy Hendrickson said: “These are not ‘mercy killings’. These are tragedies. We hope that our community can learn to recognize signs of risk in these types of situations and seek help.”
This is the fourth year in a row where at least one elderly couple has died in a DV murder-suicide, according to the 35-page report
. This tragic toll prompted the DVDRT and Elder Death Review Team to release a letter to members of the professional elder care community that included recommendations such as the creation of more robust supportive services for the caregiving spouse or partner.
In 2017, the domestic violence-related deaths included eight murder victims and five perpetrators who committed suicide or “blue suicide” (suicide by law enforcement). This year’s toll is more than the annual average occurring in Santa Clara County over the past 22 years. The number of deaths has been trending downward but continues to have irregular spikes. Since 1994, there have been an average of 11 domestic violence-related deaths every year. Since 2004, the average has been eight domestic violence-related deaths each year.
The report also documents the major strides the County has taken toward dealing with DV. The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, which had one lawyer prosecuting domestic violence cases in 1993, now has a Family Violence Team that includes 17 attorneys. There are now three Family Justice Centers, opened by DA Rosen over the past four years, operating throughout the County to serve domestic violence victims.
The DVDR committee also announced Karen Schulz as the winner of this year’s Melinda “Mindy” Zen Award. The award is given each year to the victim advocate, law enforcement officer, or other service provider who has done an exemplary job advocating for domestic violence survivors. Schulz is the managing attorney at Step Forward Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides free and low cost family court services for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. Ms. Schulz was a founding partner of the first Family Justice Center in Santa Clara County since its opening in 2014 in Morgan Hill. She worked for years in that capacity pro bono. She now serves the North County FJC as well. She has shown tireless devotion to victims of domestic violence.