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Domestic violence killed 19 people last year in Duval County

Latoya Calhoun.jpg
Raymon Troncoso
/
WJCT News
Latoya Calhoun shares the story of her sister LaShonda, who was killed by her abusive husband, as part of efforts to increase awareness of domestic violence.

Nineteen times last year, domestic violence ended in a homicide in Duval County, according to a report released Monday to highlight National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

A local coalition is advising that if you see something, say something. Victims and survivors should know there are resources to help and they are not alone, the group says.

The report, released by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and domestic violence shelter Hubbard House, said 18 domestic violence victims were killed last year and one suspect. Most cases involved people who were in intimate dating relationships.

Since JSO and Hubbard House started releasing annual reports in 1997, 71% of all domestic violence homicides have been between dating partners, rather than between family members or unrelated individuals living together.

That number includes LaShonda Wilson, whose estranged husband murdered her in front of her sister Latoya Calhoun in 2003 after she got a restraining order against him.

"She was just 21 years old when he took her life," Calhoun said Monday at an event with JSO and Hubbard House, as she recounted the traumatic events. "It's her story that I tell with the hope of encouraging anyone out there who needs support to find it, find the strength and the help to leave.

"For any survivors listening, there are organizations like the Hubbard House here to help you, and for anyone else out there, be there for the survivors and offer your support."

Assistant State Attorney Khary Gaynor, who serves as deputy director for cases relating to special victims in the region, outlined the increasing use of guns in domestic violence crimes.

Since 1997, firearms have accounted for 58% of all domestic violence homicides in Duval County. In 2021 that rate was 71%, up from 65% the year before.

"This finding is important because abusers who remain in the home, especially those with access to firearms, are an even greater threat to their victims," he said. "It is recommended that more consideration be given when victims request injunctions that restrict an abuser from returning to the home."

The Hubbard House operates a 24-hour shelter and encourages anyone facing the threat or who knows someone facing the threat of domestic violence to call or text their help line to get up-to-date information on when the Hubbard House’s outreach center is open so they can get assistance.

Hubbard House’s 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline, operated in partnership with the city of Jacksonville, can be reached at (904) 354-3114 or through its textline at (904) 210-3698.

Reporter Raymon Troncoso joined WJCT News in June of 2021 after concluding his fellowship with Report For America, where he was embedded with Capitol News Illinois covering Illinois state government with a focus on policy and equity. You can reach him at (904) 358-6319 or Rtroncoso@wjct.org and follow him on Twitter @RayTroncoso.