Jeremy Roberts allegeldy stabbed his former wife to death Sunday morning in front of their children. His sobbing twelve year old son called Ohio's 911 to report the murder. Candice Roberts was left dead, laying on the grass in the front yard of Jeremy’s apartment complex, covered in a blanket. The children are haunted by their mother's cries for help and the image of their father covered in her blood.
CNN reported Jeremy on the 911 call, after admitting that he had murdered the mother of his children, talking to his children:
"I told you that there's a lot of things that you don't understand, and you don't know. And now there's no choice for them to come out," Roberts said in the recorded call, without detailing what he meant.
The 13-year-old boy can be overheard telling his father, "I don't want to see you right now."
Her brother is haunted by what he saw, she said.
"My brother says that every time he opens his eyes, he sees my mother's face and her yelling, 'Help me!' " the teenager said. "And he sees my dad standing there with the blood all over him, and the knife in his hand."
Candice was picking up their three children from a custodial visit when Roberts decided to stab her to death, seemingly out of the blue. However, the couple’s sixteen year old daughter Kayla says her dad’s problems were known to law enforcement.
"I knew something eventually would happen one day, that he would spark. I just thought it would be him taking his own life or something other than this. I never thought he'd take my mom's life," said Kayla Roberts.
The law can’t always intervene in time to save a life, and save children from the trauma of seeing a parent murdered by their other parent. This story is so heart-breaking because not only did these kids lose their mother, but they witnessed her death at the hands of their father.
Too many times, it seems people don’t know what to do when they or a loved one is in a situation that feels threatening. Tonia Moultry of the Ohio Domestic Violence Network says that law enforcement isn’t always the safest option (obviously she’s talking about long term plans to escape not imminent danger; if you are in imminent danger, call 911).
Statistics bear out the point that leaving an abuser is the most dangerous time other than pregnancy for a woman in an abusive relationship. For this reason, domestic violence shelters and hotlines will do a lethality assessment based on a woman’s situation and help her devise a plan to get out of the situation safely.
Moultry points out that it’s important to report death threats, verbal abuse and manipulation because they are a pattern of the kind of abuse that indicates lethality.
"Sometimes law enforcement isn't always the safest option for folks. We know that sometimes being involved with the legal system actually makes the situation significantly worse than really being able to help," Moultry said. "In some ways it does feel like it's a little more severe or that people are dealing with more multiple issues.”
Moultry says death threats need to be reported.
"People may not reach out to us until it reaches to a physical level because people don't always associate verbal abuse, isolation, manipulation, those kind of things as a pattern of part of the domestic violence that's taking place,” Moultry said.
Even in Robert’s 911 call, he raises a red warning flag as he tells his children, "I told you that there's a lot of things that you don't understand, and you don't know. And now there's no choice for them to come out.” This statement is not what you would expect from a loving father or even a bitter ex husband facing the murder of his former spouse and mother of his children; it has the stink of victim blaming all over it and zero comprehension of what he's just done to his children, let alone his ex wife. There are “things that will come out” that will explain what he did, in his mind.
Except that there is no good explanation for murdering someone in cold blood, and certainly none at all for doing it in front of your children. This kind of behavior and language, where the victim is somehow deserving of the punishment issued by the abuser, is indicative of a specific kind of abuse – a pattern of abuse – that serves as a warning that the mindset for a lethal crime against this victim exists. It's called intimate partner terrorism.
The research of Criminologist Neil Websdale, who leads the National Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative, proves that there is almost always a warning sign for lethality, and that there are different kinds of abusive behavior that can indicate a propensity for what he calls "intimate partner terrorism," or "coercive control." USA Today reported:
Coercive control is almost exclusively the domain of men. It is long-term and tyrannical abuse that includes, often in addition to physical violence, attacks on a woman's self-worth, degrading remarks and obsessive monitoring of her whereabouts and her contact with other people.
Other factors fuel the lethality:
— He's obsessively possessive. If he can't have her, no one can.
— He drinks or uses drugs. He's depressed, or unemployed.
— There's a stepchild in the household. The risk increases not because of anything the child does, but because his or her presence invokes jealousy over a woman's prior relationship.
— He abuses his partner during pregnancy.
— There's an age difference of more than 10 years.
— She's an undocumented immigrant who may fear reaching out for help because of her status.
Websdale also finds that many men kill in a state of what he calls "humiliated fury," shame that has gone into overdrive for any number of reasons: She is moving out and he is losing control of her, for instance, or he has lost his job and is drinking more.
Webdale notes other signs of escalation are monitoring her whereabouts, keeping a loaded gun on the nightstand, reading her text messages and the victim’s own sense of impending danger.
Far too many women die in this country from domestic violence, and though it might seem like a Lifetime move, it’s real. People tend to project their own values and behavior onto others, and for this reason, it can be difficult for a victim and their family/friends to imagine that the threat is as serious as it is. That’s why it’s important to talk to professionals, who can do a lethality risk assessment based on years of case studies of behavior that precedes intimate partner murder.
If you or someone you love is in this situation, go somewhere safe and call a domestic violence hotline in your area (national hotline 1−800−799−SAFE(7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224). Remember that your phone and computer logs (this is why there is a warning when you enter http://www.thehotline.org/ to go to a safe computer) might be monitored and the most important thing you can do while you plan your escape is to keep your plans private from the abuser and his enablers.
If the abuser senses that you are planning to leave or move on with your life, even by taking new courses at school or making new friends, the threat level against you goes up. The folks at domestic violence shelters can help you and your loved one. Don’t wait to seek help, and don’t diminish the signs of intimate partner terrorism. Your life is worth protecting and saving.
If you are in imminent danger, call 911.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.