INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ICADV) said there were at least five apparent domestic violence homicides this past weekend.
Advocates said these types of situations are rare, but it does happen and it has been on the rise since the onset of the pandemic.
“It’s predictable,” Caryn Burton said. “There are factors that are present that we can identify.”
Burton is the Homicide Reduction Strategies Coordinator at the ICADV. She said nearly all of these homicides are committed with a gun and having one in the home elevates the risk.
“A gun makes things more lethal, just plain does,” Burton explained. “In a case where there’s not a gun — in the same exact situation that’s not going to end in a homicide.”
Burton said one of the biggest red flags that people should look for is a previous strangulation attack. She said people who survive a domestic strangulation attack are 750 percent more likely to be killed.
On Saturday, police found 47-year-old Jennifer Lewis shot to death inside her home. Police were originally called there for an attempted suicide but determined her death to be “suspicious.”
On Monday, the Johnson County Coroner ruled her death a homicide.
Her longtime boyfriend, 49-year-old Johnathan Baker, was arrested for a probation violation for being in possession of a gun. However, he has not been charged in her death.
Court records show Baker was charged with strangulation and domestic violence in January after Lewis told police he hit her approximately 75 times and choked her until she nearly lost consciousness.
“We have a strangulation statue in our criminal law for a very specific reason,” Burton said. “It is for cases like this. It gives the system the ability to hold that person accountable.”
Baker took a plea deal and plead guilty to the misdemeanor domestic battery charge. The felony strangulation charge was dismissed. Baker was sentenced to one year probation and domestic violence counseling.
“Ms. Lewis told the victim advocate that she was not in fear of the defendant and was amendable to an agreement that resulted in the defendant pleading guilty to a lesser charge and receiving probation as a sentence,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement to FOX59.
Burton said leaving a violent relationship is more of a process, not a single event. She said the first step for people fleeing domestic violence should be reaching out to an advocate.
“So that you have someone who has direct access to those resources who can connect you with those community programs that can provide rental assistance,” Burton said. “They can provide food assistance, childcare support.”
Burton said after that, it’s vital to make sure the victim has a safety plan for when they’re ready to leave and most importantly, support.
“That means emotional support, psychological support and financial support,” Burton said.
ICADV has a “Find Help” page that can help you find your local advocacy program – it contains a searchable list of all providers across the state.
You can find that list here: https://icadvinc.org/domestic-violence-programs/
Burton said the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 800-799-7233, is another good resource.
You can also visit the hotline’s website, www.thehotline.org, where you can live chat with an advocate or you can text START to 88788.