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Tracking deadly domestic violence

Profile image for By Diane Jennings / The Dallas Morning News
By Diane Jennings / The Dallas Morning News

Series to focus on slayings committed by a family member

Home is where you feel safe.

Family members are the people who love you.

But all too often, home becomes a crime scene and loved ones become murderers.

In 2012, 1,144 homicides occurred in Texas. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, 15 percent of them were committed by a family member. Add in ex-spouses, boyfriends and girlfriends, and the number rises to almost 1 in 4.

These horrific, deeply personal stories often go untold or are forgotten quickly. But for the rest of this year the Denton Record-Chronicle will join The Dallas Morning News in tracking and focusing on domestic violence homicides in Dallas, Denton, Collin and Rockwall counties, in a series called “Deadly Affection.”

Domestic violence occurs at every age, income level, geographic location and imaginable circumstance. In 2013, an 82-year-old Fairview man was arrested in the slayings of his son and grandson. A Mesquite woman shot her husband and their two adult children. A Celina father was arrested in the beating death of a 3-month old.

The News and the Record-Chronicle will look at the victims and perpetrators in fatal cases, including not just husbands and wives, but nuclear and extended families, as well as same-sex and opposite-sex relationships. We hope to find the details that will tell who these people were, how their relationship developed, the extent, duration and type of violence in their home and how it affected others.

Stories and resources will be available in the print editions and in expanded format at

Some Texans who never encounter violence at home might believe they are unaffected by the issue. Experts disagree.

“That violence at some point spreads into society as a whole,” said Denise Paquette Boots, an associate professor of criminology at the University of Texas at Dallas. “People that come from violent backgrounds are significantly more likely to commit violent crime at some point during their adult life.”

Rita Smith, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said that in recent years family violence has spilled into the public arena because “shopping centers, and beauty spas and hair salons and churches have all seen domestic violence homicides.”

When Debby Tucker, executive director of the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence in Austin, began working with domestic violence victims, she thought, “It’s going to take us about 10 years to get our ducks in a row and end sexual and domestic violence,” she said.

Her predictions were “way off,” she said, because she didn’t understand the complexities of the issue.

Now she does.



“I always get the question, ‘Why does she stay?’ My response is always, ‘There’s hundreds of reasons why women stay. There’s not one good reason why he hits her.’” — Denise Paquette Boots, associate professor of criminology, University of Texas at Dallas

“Domestic violence is still the unthinkable. … It’s still shrouded in secrecy. If my purse is stolen at NorthPark, I’m not ashamed to tell you. If my husband hits me, somehow I’m ashamed to tell you.” — Jan Langbein, chief executive officer, Genesis Women’s Shelter in Dallas

“Where do we think that we grow rapists and murderers? … It is those households where children are exposed very early to the use of violence against loved ones and where they get this mixed message that violence is a part of even the closest of relationships.” — Debby Tucker, executive director, National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence in Austin


Law officers statewide handled nearly 189,000 family violence incidents in 2012. Those include homicides, assaults, kidnapping, robbery, forcible sex offenses and non-forcible sex offenses. Most, about 97 percent, are assaults.

Family violence offenses in North Texas counties:

Dallas: 12,938

Collin: 3,197

Denton: 1,990

Rockwall: 273

Source: Texas Department of Public Safety