Filled with grief and searching for a “reason to go on living,” Shirley and Larry Bostrom made the creation of a fatality review committee part of their life mission after their daughter, Margaret, was murdered by her husband in 1996.
After they came up with the idea, it took a decade to get the first fatality review report completed, but the Bostrom’s find solace in the fact it will now be an annual tradition in the state.
“When Margie was murdered we knew nothing about domestic violence,“ Shirley Bostrom said Friday at a Capitol press conference. “We didn’t think it could happen to us. It happened to other people over there and we didn’t know anything. And we also knew we needed a reason to go on living.”
Larry Bostrom, admits that when they got the call on Aug. 16, 1996, they assumed their daughter Margaret was murdered by one of the dangerous inmates she counseled as a psychologist at the Lewisberg Federal Penitentiary. It wasn’t until they arrived in Pennsylvania the next day that they learned she was murdered by her husband.
After that the Bostrom’s began attending and speaking at conferences where they learned about fatality review. Shirley Bostrom said she thought fatality review would be something that could help other victims.
“If we didn’t know anything about domestic violence there certainly are a lot of other families that don’t know either,” Bostrom said.
The Bostrom’s hope the fatality review process will prevent someone from being murdered by their spouse or partner.
The first report , released Friday, examines 146 intimate partner fatalities from 2000 to 2009. The report shows that the number of domestic homicides wavered through the years, but the highest number occurred in 2004, while the lowest number occurred in 2009.
And 42 of those cases over the nine year period were murder suicides, while 104 were homicides, most of which were preceded by a long history of battery. Thirty-five percent of homicide victims were married to their perpetrator at the time of their death, 25 percent victims were living with their partner and 27 percent were identified as a girlfriend or boyfriend. About 13 percent had a child in common.
Cause of death in 58 of the cases studied were gunshot wounds, and 74 were killed by intimate contact, such as stabbing, strangulation, or beating.
In interviews with the families of the victims, the fatality review committee came to learn several troubling facts, the most common of which was that few of the victims knew there were services available and often did not think of themselves as victims of domestic violence.
Karen Jarmoc, interim director of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said many of the victims were unaware of there were services out there. She said that’s something her organization will be looking at very closely over the next year. She said the organization plans on developing a media guide and using nontraditional ways of reaching out to victims through things such as social media.
“The number one thing this report says to me is that we continue to need to do a better job of awareness and understanding of the issue of domestic violence,“ Rep. Mae Flexer, D-Killingly, said. “The fact that so many of these fatality victims did not know about and were not accessing the services that are available throughout our state is a serious problem.”
Jarmoc said the other thing they learned from the report is that many of these fatalities occur after a divorce, break-up, or loss of custodial and parental rights of their children.
Stalking was also a common theme in many of the fatalities.
“There are very specific precipitating factors that lead to the commencement of the murder,” Jarmoc said. “In all these domestic violence fatalities there were these precipitating factors present.”
While no names were used in the report, Ramona Kendall, and her two daughters Kayla and Alexis, were shot by Michael Kendall in their East Hartford home in Dec. 2003 just hours before the home was to be hers to live in with her daughters. Ramona had filed for divorce a year before the murder and East Hartford police had been called to the Great Hill Road home several times in the past for various domestic incidents according to court records.
Jarmoc said they are hoping to train the professionals who may come in contact with these victims at very critical times to make sure they are aware of how significant these precipitating factors are in domestic violence fatalities.
And it’s come to their attention that there are few if any resources that exist for children who witness domestic violence. She said next year they will be seeking a legislative changes that allow children who witness domestic violence to be eligible for services through the Office of Victims Services. Currently they are not eligible.
Also when law enforcement responds to a domestic violence fatality there doesn’t seem to be a consistent policy regarding children, so they will be working with law enforcement to come up with a more uniform response to these situations, Jarmoc said. She said that’s not a change that needs to be legislated.