A recent study found that domestic abuse homicides in Wisconsin reached a 10-year high in 2009.
According to the 10th annual report of the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, domestic violence claimed the lives of 67 Wisconsin residents in 2009.
Of those killed in domestic incidents last year, 52 were homicides and 15 were suicides.
In 2008, 46 people were killed in domestic violence in Wisconsin.
Among the homicide victims of domestic violence in 2009 were Christine Gollon, 30, of Nelsonville, and her two children, Ashley Kettner, age 3, and Griffin Kettner, age 2.
In late April 2009, Gollon’s mother called the Portage County Sheriff’s Department and reported that she had not heard from her daughter in two days and was concerned for her safety. She said her daughter’s boyfriend, Shane Kettner, had threatened her if she tried to leave.
When deputies went to the home to check on the family, they found the windows covered with blankets, the home’s interior soaked with gasoline, and the bodies of the three victims.
According to the medical examiner, Gollon died from a “complex homicidal fatality” that included cuts on her neck and wounds on her wrists. Her children were shot to death several days after she was killed. Her 6-month-old daughter survived being doused with gasoline and inhaling the fumes.
Kettner pleaded guilty to one count of reckless homicide in Gollon’s death and two counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the children’s deaths. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison for her death and two concurrent life sentences in the children’s deaths, to begin after first serving the 30-year term.
There were no domestic abuse homicides in Waupaca County in 2009. The county’s most recent domestic-related killings occurred in July 2003 in the town of Farmington.
Raymond Noll, 58, called 911 and said he had just shot his wife, Cynthia Noll, 57. The 911 dispatcher then heard a gunshot.
When deputies arrived at the Nolls’ home, they found the couple dead in their bedroom.
There were no prior reports of domestic violence. Investigators said Raymond Noll had suffered from depression and anxiety over financial matters prior to the homicide-suicide.
On the night of Jan. 18, 2007, Rodney R. Arndt, of Marion, broke into his ex-girlfriend’s rural Clintonville home while she was sleeping, stabbed her multiple times and beat her with a board, according to the criminal complaint.
The woman managed to escape by jumping through a second-story window and running to a neighbor’s home to call police.
Arndt was convicted of burglary to commit battery, first-degree reckless endangerment with a weapon, robbery with use of force and false imprisonment. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison in February 2008.
According to Mary Lea St. Thomas, the victim advocate for the Waupaca County district attorney’s office, police referred 307 domestic-violence reports to the district attorney in 2009. Of those referrals, 211 were prosecuted as criminal cases.
As of the end of September 2010, there have been 193 domestic-violence referrals and 104 court cases filed.
In Waupaca County, the Coordinated Community Response Team (CCRT) brings together staff from the district attorney’s office, Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and CAP Services to work with victims of domestic violence. The group’s goal is not only to respond to domestic violence, but to raise public awareness of the problem.
Each year, CCRT organizes a rally in front of Waupaca’s City Hall. The theme for this year’s rally is “Speak Up and Speak Out.” It is slated for 4:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 18.
Waupaca County DHHS Director Ted Phernetton will be the keynote speaker and Sheriff Brad Hardel will be the master of ceremonies.
“Over the past couple of years, we have had a jump in the economic aspects of domestic violence,” according to Tammy Moe, who works with CAP Services as an advocate for domestic violence victims.
She noted an increase in referrals when businesses began laying people off due to the recession.
“At the same time, public services are being cut, so the stress level is higher among the victims,” Moe said.
In Waupaca County, CAP Services helped 84 clients deal with domestic violence in 2009 and, as of Sept. 30, 58 clients this year.
St. Thomas said victims of domestic violence in rural areas face unique hurdles when seeking help.
“If you live in a smaller town like Waupaca or New London, everybody seems to know your business. So victims want to keep things private,” St. Thomas said.
Moe said victims feel a sense of shame because they believe the people they encounter on a daily basis, their children’s teachers or their neighbors, are aware of their situation. As a consequence, they do not contact anyone for public services.
Leaving the abuser
Members of the Waupaca County CCRT said the public has a misconception that a victim chooses not to leave an abuser. Moe pointed out the fears that keep a victim in a violent home.
“The victim, a lot of the time, is afraid of what will happen to her and her children,” Moe said.
Domestic violence is a matter of one person seeking to control another. Part of that involves controlling the victim’s access to money and ability to act independently.
Victims often have no place to go and few resources to help them leave an abusive home. They also are concerned for their own safety after the perpetrator is released from custody.
“Having power and control over another person won’t get you sent to prison,” St. Thomas said. “Punching and hitting and slapping won’t get you sent to prison.”
“Sometimes, the victim is so afraid that she will not cooperate with the prosecution,” Moe said.
Mary Ann Saiyed, who supervises CAP Services’ outreach program in four counties, said the perpetrators of domestic violence often control the family’s finances.
“The perpetrator can afford an attorney and the victim cannot afford an attorney,” Saiyed said.
Moe said there are services available to help a victim leave an abusive situation.
CAP Services has a Family Crisis Center in Stevens Point and four transitional living units in Waupaca County for those who need long-term housing.
Who to call
St. Thomas said a victim’s first call should be to law enforcement.
“A victim has the option of requesting a 72-hour no-contact order,” St. Thomas said.
“Sometimes, the officer will advise a victim to call me the next day,” St. Thomas added. “We’ll talk about the charges and I advise them on their rights, accompany them to court and help them through the criminal process.”
Moe recommended that victims also call CAP Services 24-hour crisis line at 800-472-3377.
“A crisis counselor will talk through the problems and look at the immediate needs of that individual family,” Moe said. “If they’re afraid they’re not safe in their home, they can go to the shelter.”
Moe explained that a counselor will help a victim connect to available resources and services.
“Our primary goal is the victim’s safety,” Moe said.