Experts: Domestic violence peaks around holidays

2 domestic violence incidents in Jacksonville highlight tragic trend

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It's been one week since a man shot and killed his girlfriend in his backyard. Days later, a man shot and killed his wife in their St. Johns County home before being killed by police.

Experts said they see more instances of domestic violence around the holiday season. News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said police see the most calls on Christmas night.

National statistics show that calls to police and domestic violence hotlines increase by 22 percent on Thanksgiving, 17 percent on Christmas, and 32 percent on New Year's Day.

According to experts, the main reasons are the stress and expectations of the holiday, which can bring out violent tendencies in a person who already has them.

Angela Turner, the sister of Shannon Woods (pictured), the 22-year-old FSCJ student shot and killed on Christmas Day, believes that holiday tension played a role in her sister's death. 

Turner carries her sister with her everywhere now -- on a locket and in her heart. Police said Woods was killed by her boyfriend, Breon Fussell, on Christmas Day.

Seeing her sister's body one week later wasn't easy, Turner said.

"She was just laying there and she was just lifeless, and it was like it was nothing I could do," Turner said. "I just, you know, take her off the table, and I just wanted to have so much strength to just pick her up and just bring her back home with me."

It's difficult for Turner because she said there were signs of domestic abuse in her sister's relationship with Fussell. Experts said those signs can be even more prevalent during the holiday season.

Just four days after Christmas, St. Johns County deputies killed a 48-year-old man suspected of shooting and killing his wife in their home after he refused to drop a shotgun.

Ellen Siler, CEO of Hubbard House, explained what's behind the increase in domestic violence around the holidays.

"People often have high expectations of holiday times that can be really stressful for some people," Siler said. "Then you combine that with use of alcohol, a lot of times when you get more quantities than are normally used."

Those issues combined can make a violent person even more violent, Siler said. And with couples, the demand for time and attention from family and friends can be a trigger.

"A lot of abusers want all the attention focused on them," Siler said. "And so when the attention is focused on others, some of them will sit and simmer, and so they explode."

Turner said she spoke with Fussell's mom, who overheard a conversation between her sister and boyfriend before she was killed.

"She said she could overhear them having something about somebody not texting or somebody not calling," Turner said. "So I believe that he became enraged and upset about her not being there all day and she was off with family on Christmas."

As she prepares to say goodbye to her sister, she said she hopes her story and pain can save someone's life.

Woods' family is planning to hold a vigil for her Saturday at Edwards Park. They said everyone is welcome to attend. It will be held in the evening around sunset after her funeral.