(LEX 18) — There were at least five separate domestic violence-related homicides across Kentucky over the weekend. The reality of that, is there are now several families grieving an unexpected loss.
In Jessamine County, police say Angela Owens Wooldridge was shot and killed by her husband. In Lexington, police say 10-year-old Landon Hayes was killed by his mother's ex-boyfriend. In Bardstown 33-year-old Tabitha Murray was killed, and police suspect her partner. In Taylorsville, it was 51-year-old Karen Young who police suspect was shot and killed by her partner. Another unidentified person died by suspected domestic homicide in Bowling Green.
The five lives lost over the weekend are just the cases tracked by GreenHouse17 and the 14 other domestic violence programs across Kentucky.
The state of Kentucky currently does not track domestic violence deaths.
"Right now, the tracking is really just collecting newspaper clippings, Google Alerts, media alerts, when you all call us and tell us when you do stories is kind of how we sometimes have to put the piece of the puzzle together," said Darlene Thomas, Executive Director of GreenHouse 17.
GreenHouse 17 is a non-profit that works to nurture survivors of intimate partner abuse through nature-based healing. While they have helped hundreds and answered around twenty crisis calls a day, losing even one life makes them want to do even more work.
"It rocks us every time because we know who's left behind," said Thomas. "It always crushes our souls that do this work, because that's what we fight so hard against. We want survivors to be survivors and to be able to figure out how to navigate themselves from crisis to self-sufficiency. They don't have to do it alone, right. That's the goal. So whenever we hear that that wasn't a possibility, it just lends to the fact that we have more work to do."
"We have more work to do as an organization, we have more work to do as a community to ensure the safety of our members, that they have a right to be safe and not harmed by anybody, let alone their intimate partner."
Thomas is a part of the Lexington domestic violence fatality review committee, a board designed to look at domestic homicides and determine whether they could have been prevented and how.
"Really will look at the entire case as holistically as possible from services to protection to law enforcement, to the courts, to 911 response, you name it. Any way that a person whose life was taken, had access to systems, we will be looking at that," said Thomas.
Lexington's has met on and off, but the committees are not common in cities throughout the state.
Thomas says one tool that would broaden the impact is to have a state review committee.
There were efforts to start one in 2011, but it never prospered.
"I think if you had a way to elevate a few of the cases across the state to a statewide level to really look at what legislation might be needed, what resources might be needed, where are there gaps in those services, things like that throughout the state, it might lead to a statewide strategic plan," said Thomas.
Thomas says what would also help is resources for financial support to leave situations and support from community members like neighbors.
"If you really know that the home has situations going on, connecting that person to resources and being a part of their safety plan. We've done things in the past that if the front porch is, you know, light flips on, then maybe I need to call for help," explained Thomas.
She adds, if you need to question it, just make a safety plan in case you need to get away from someone at a moment's notice.