Man accused of beating girlfriend to death

Victim's children witness her death, tell police they'd seen previous abuse

Published On: May 17 2012 11:32:17 AM EDT   Updated On: May 18 2012 06:02:38 AM EDT
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

A 32-year-old man accused of beating a woman to death in front of her three young children Wednesday evening is scheduled to face a judge on a charge of murder.

Homicide detectives called to the Caroline Arms Apartments on Fort Caroline Road found the body of 28-year-old Rolanda Harrell inside her apartment. They took Kishon Birch into custody at the scene and said there was no danger to the public.

Thursday morning, police announced Birch was charged with murder.

Police said the children -- ages 2, 5 and 7 -- told officers they had seen Birch, their mother's boyfriend, abusing her in the past.

Detectives said they found Harrell slumped against the kitchen counters in a pool of blood.

The two oldest children told detectives Birch was "slinging their mom around the kitchen and throwing her against the kitchen counters and stove," according to a police report.

According to the report, the children said their mom fell and blood came out of her mouth.

"I think the guy who did this is a coward because no one deserves to die like that, especially in front of their kids," said Leander Pickett, who lives in an apartment behind Harrell's.

Investigators said Birch tried to pick Harrell off the floor and then dropped her back on the floor. They said he then took off running, leaving behind his bloody shoe prints.

The children told police the argument started when Birch slapped their mom after she accused him of seeing another woman.

Channel 4 learned Birch was in prison from 2003-2008 after a conviction for armed robbery, but has no other arrests in Duval County. A paternity suit was filed against him last year by another woman.

Channel 4 crime analyst Ken Jefferson said victims of abuse need to come forward.

"Somebody's got to be brave enough to report this, even if they report it anonymously," Jefferson said.

Ellen Siler, CEO of the Hubbard House, explained why oftentimes they don't.

"They're often told if they ever leave they'll be killed, but what people don't realize is domestic violence can turn deadly at any time, and if you're living with violence, you need to understand that," Siler said.

Siler is hoping Harrell's story helps other victims of abuse come forward before it's too late.

"It is really really sad, and I hope anyone else out there living with violence is going to take some action and make a call now," Siler said.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, there's help. Call the Hubbard House hotline at 800-500-1119 or 904-354-3114.