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Experts search for answers about domestic violence fatalities

Domestic violence cases are complex, emotional.

Warren County’s fifth fatal case of domestic violence in less than four months left even experts grasping for answers about what causes people to go to such extremes and what can be done to prevent these tragedies.

Jason D. Robb, 35, of Lebanon, died Thursday morning, allegedly shot by his ex-wife, Mercedes S. Robb, multiple times while picking up their children from her house.

He follows two couples, David and Traci-Fletcher Garrett, who died in a homicide-suicide in September outside Springboro and Eric and Lauren Walker, killed in a homicide-suicide outside Morrow.

“Domestic disputes are some of the most volatile and dangerous situations that law enforcement face because the emotions are so heightened,” Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said.

“Fatalities typically occur when there is a triggering event, such as the filing for divorce, or a parent seeking a change of custody of the children,” Fornshell said in a text message.”When that happens, many of these offenders believe they have lost everything, and react by killing their former/partner and sometimes themselves.”

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While acknowledging the complexity of such cases, Jane Keiffer, executive director of the Artemis Center, a Dayton-based agency serving domestic-violence victims, noted guns were used in all three recent Warren County incidents, mirroring a trend identified in a recent study by the Ohio Domestic Violence Network (ODVN).

The study was ground-breaking in a state where no data is kept on domestic violence fatalities. It found the incidents studied resulted in 101 fatalities, including 90 adults and 11 children.

It also found guns were used in nearly three-quarters of the 69 of 79 fatalities from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016, that “had some clear relationship to domestic violence.”

“The likelihood of homicide in domestic violence grows exponentially when guns are involved,” Keiffer said referring to the most recent Warren County case.

Mercedes Robb remained in the Warren County Jail Friday, on $500,000 bond, charged with murdering Jason Robb with a .22-caliber pistol.

“Hi, I just shot my ex-husband. Can someone please come out here please?” Robb told a 911 dispatcher.

The Robbs divorced in 2013 but continued to battle over custody.

He sought full custody of their children, 13 and 6 years old, on Oct. 24.

The study of domestic violence fatalities was one of the latest steps taken by the Ohio Domestic Violence Network.

“ODVN will be working with legislators, domestic violence programs, public officials and others to design more effective responses that can prevent these tragedies. We ask the public to remember these losses, to strive to fully understand the issues, and to support advances toward long‐term solutions. We must insist that Ohio deliver courageous

and outstanding leadership on domestic violence,” Nancy Neylon, the network’s executive director, said in a press release reporting the study, released in October during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Along with the Artemis Center in Dayton, efforts to build awareness about domestic violence are being made by Family Violence Prevention Center in Greene County, the Abuse and Rape Crisis Shelter of Warren County and the Family Abuse Shelter of Miami County.

The centers are tailored to the needs of women and children, in part due to data indicating 85 to 95 percent of domestic violence victims are women. They offer victims a range of resources and services to help them protect themselves and their children.

“Sometimes women resort to violence when they feel they don’t have any options,” Keiffer said. “The bottom line is we have these children without parents. That’s the tragedy of it all.”

While attention is focused on Warren County, James Lane, 30, of Riverside was accused of planning to kill his estranged wife and twin daughters in March in a case police attributed to domestic issues.

In April, John Bailey, 22, was arrested on suspicion of murdering the mother of his daughter in Trotwood. And in September, Thomas Shockey, 70, of Germantown was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and felonious assault after reportedly calling 911 to report having shot his wife.

“Domestic violence happens everywhere,” Keiffer said. “It’s a societal issue that we don’t want to talk about.”

The problem seems to be growing.

Last year, the number of domestic violence calls to police jumped from 64,531 to 72,899, according to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

“If we don’t talk about it, domestic violence breeds in silence. We need to talk about it,” Keiffer said. “It really is an epidemic in our community.”

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