Area sees deadly domestic violence cases within week

By Erik Avanier - Reporter , Scott Johnson - Reporter

Within the last six days, there have been four deadly domestic violence cases across Northeast Florida.

In Duval, St. Johns and Clay counties, investigators said, women have been killed either by their boyfriend or husband. The cases have once again put a spotlight on a national problem. 

The latest occurred Thursday at an apartment complex in St. Augustine, where Kathy Edwards, 53, and James Edwards, 57, died in a murder-suicide, deputies said. 

David Wilson, the brother of Kathy Edwards, said he didn't expect violence of that magnitude. 

"We were just together for the last five days, and now she's take from everyone. No one deserves this. Even someone so nice, or if they had done something wrong, but she hasn't. You don't expect stuff like this," Wilson told News4Jax Thursday night.

The disturbing string of domestic violence incidents in the area began Saturday, when a pregnant woman and her unborn child were stabbed to death by her boyfriend, according to Jacksonville police. 

On Wednesday, deputies said, they arrested a man accused of killing his estranged wife Sunday in Clay County

"For this individual to seek solace in Duval County, and think that the long arm of the law couldn't reach out that far; I don't care if that person laid their head in the pits of hell, then we'll go down and kick the gates of hell open and come and get him," Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels said.

On Jacksonville's Eastside early Wednesday morning, police said, a domestic violence call led to a deadly officer-involved shooting.

Law enforcement officials in different jurisdictions didn't mince words about the recent deadly outcomes of domestic violence.

"This is a sad and unfortunate example of the serious societal issue that domestic violence presents, and the havoc it can have on people's lives when it spins out of control," said Director of Investigations Ron Lendvay, of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said domestic violence is difficult to predict.

"You may go a long period of time with no cases, then you could have several cases in a row," Smith said.

According to a 2014 nationwide study by the Violence Policy Center, 93 percent of female murder victims were killed by men they knew -- 63 percent of those victims were wives or girlfriends. But Smith offered another interesting fact.

"The most dangerous time for domestic violence is when the victim is planning to leave, or two weeks after they leave," he said.

Smith said that's when the victim is most vulnerable because emotions are very high. 

He also pointed out that Duval County is involved in a what's the INVEST program, which includes the 11 counties in Florida with the highest rate of domestic violence murders. Since its inception in 2009, Smith said, no one enrolled in the program has been killed due to domestic violence. 

"It may need to expand from 11 to 15, I don't know if St. Johns would still fall under that umbrella. But every day, they go in and look at police reports and see if there's potential for further domestic violence and go in and work with them," Smith said.

While any situation can be dangerous for officers, News4Jax was told domestic violence calls are historically some of the most dangerous for police because the suspect and sometimes the victim can physically turn on an officer.

“If you are a person living out in domestic violence conditions or in hostile living conditions, don't be afraid to walk away from that and seek shelter in a safe place, so that situations like this can be mitigated,” said Daniels, who was joined by representatives from domestic violence shelters Quigley House and Hubbard House at Wednesday's news conference

To contact Hubbard House, call 904-354-3114. To contact Quigley House, call 904-406-0885

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