Santa Clara County saw a steep increase in domestic violence-related deaths in 2017, which saw six more fatalities than in 2016, according to a recently published report.
The District Attorney’s annual domestic violence death review released last week shows that the county in 2017 surpassed its 22-year average with 13 fatalities related to intimate partner violence, including eight victims and five offenders who took their own life or committed suicide-by-cop.
According to the report, 2017 also marked the fourth consecutive year in which senior citizens died by domestic abuse.
Out of the domestic violence-related deaths reported last year, four of them involved the murder-suicides of two elderly couples.
In one such incident, an 81-year-old man shot and killed his wife of 60 years before turning the gun on himself. The suspect had reportedly suffered a lot of physical pain after undergoing surgery while the victim had progressive memory loss.
“These are not ‘mercy killings,’” Assistant District Attorney Cindy Hendrickson said in a news release announcing the report. “These are tragedies.”
Hendrickson, who leads the Domestic Violence Review Team that drafted the report, signed her name to a letter co-authored by the county’s Elder Death Review Team that calls on assisted living centers to keep an eye out for certain red flags that might indicate the potential for fatal intimate partner violence.
“We hope that our community can learn to recognize the signs of risk in these types of situations and seek help,” Hendrickson said.
The 35-page domestic violence review noted that the number of fatalities have been on an overall decline in the past two decades, but there have been a few sharp jumps in certain years. From 2014 to 2015, for example, there was a sharp jump from two deaths to 13.
While a “decrease is encouraging,” the report states, “even a single death is too many.”
Santa Clara County has continued to improve the way it responds to domestic violence, the report notes. In June of this year, to name one measure, the county proposed a 400 percent increase for funding in the 2018-19 budget to help domestic violence survivors.
Meanwhile, the District Attorney’s Office established a Family Violence Team consisting of 17 attorneys—a huge increase from the one attorney assigned to prosecuting domestic violence cases in 1993. DA Jeff Rosen has also opened three Family Justice Centers throughout the region in the past four years to provide services to victims.