Minnesota domestic violence homicide victims: Lives lost have ‘ripple effect’
In the last decade, the number of victims of domestic violence-related homicides ranged from a high of 37 in 2013 and a low of 14 in 2018.
ST. PAUL -- Buffye Brown held up her 2-year-old nephew at the Minnesota Capitol on Tuesday and pleaded with people experiencing domestic violence: If they can’t leave for themselves, “Do it for him.”
“He’s the one who’s got to grow up now wondering why mommy never came home, why daddy would do something so wrong,” she said.
Brown’s sister, Latifa Tasha Minor Brown, was fatally shot in St. Paul last January. Her long-term boyfriend was sentenced to prison for Latifa’s murder. Buffye Brown brought the couple’s son with her to a memorial service for people killed last year in domestic violence situations.
There were 24 known victims in Minnesota last year — 21 allegedly died at the hands of a current or former partner, and three were bystanders killed in domestic violence-related situations, according to Violence Free Minnesota.
In the last decade, the number of victims of domestic violence-related homicides ranged from a high of 37 in 2013 and a low of 14 in 2018, Violence Free Minnesota data shows. There were an average of 26 such victims a year between 2013 and 2022.
“Those lives that are lost” have “a ripple effect,” said Guadalupe Lopez, Violence Free Minnesota executive director, at Tuesday’s memorial. “We are all connected in many different ways and so when we lose a community member, whether we know them or not, it does impact us.”
Violence Free Minnesota and other organizations are advocating this legislative session for an additional $25 million annually for crime victims’ services, which would nearly double the amount of state dollars currently allocated for such services. The base state funding hasn’t seen an increase in more than eight years, according to Violence Free Minnesota.
Victims from age 13 to 66
The people killed due to domestic violence last year “were mothers, daughters, sisters, brothers, sons, cousins, friends, and they all brought so much joy and love to those around them,” said Joe Shannon, Violence Free Minnesota communications program manager.
The oldest were 66-year-olds — Linda Marie Johnson, of St. Paul, and Christine Kaja Nygard, of Motley. They were both beaten to death. Johnson’s husband was sentenced to prison for murder. Nygard’s boyfriend is charged with first-degree murder.
“Christine loved her grandkids and spending time with her family, as well as being outside and gardening,” Shannon said. “Linda was an avid fan of the Twins and Wild and collected Tinker Bell memorabilia.”
The youngest victim last year was 13-year-old Isaac Hoff, of Olivia.
“He was killed while defending his mother who was being assaulted and strangled by her boyfriend,” Shannon said. “Isaac was a spunky but big-hearted young man whose mother and baby sister meant the world to him.”
In at least half of last year’s domestic violence homicides, the perpetrator or alleged perpetrator “had a documented history of abuse against a current or former intimate partner,” Shannon said. “This means that in at least 12 instances, the criminal legal system was aware of the abuse and the risk of homicide, but not enough was done to keep the victim safe.”
He said there are “glaring and horrifying examples of systemic failures that led to the loss of lives,” including:
- Kelli Ranning Goodermont’s ex-boyfriend, who is charged with stabbing her and setting her on fire at their St. Paul workplace in March 2022, “has an extensive history of violence, and court records stated he posed a substantial likelihood of causing physical harm to others,” Shannon said.
- Lynnie Ann Loucks’s boyfriend “had a history of intimate partner violence in two states, violated several protection orders and even threatened a police officer during questions after one of the violations,” according to Shannon. She was killed in Crow Wing County in April.
- Katie Ann Fredrickson, whose boyfriend pleaded guilty to fatally shooting her in Brooklyn Center in July though he was barred from possessing firearms due to a conviction for violent crime. He was convicted of illegal firearm possession in 2006, 2014 and 2015, Shannon said.
- When police responded to two calls to Kari Jo Petrich’s home in the days before she was killed in June in Hibbing, she spoke directly with police and told them her boyfriend struck her in the face. “She died 24 hours after officers provided her no support,” Shannon said. “And the medical examiner stated if she had received medical care in that time period, she would have survived.”
‘Sister’s heavenly light’
Latifa Brown, 31, and Mark Bell Jr. were in a relationship for 11 years. Brown told her sister and police about Bell abusing her.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘Please know your worth,'” Buffye Brown said Tuesday of her sister. “… I have two brothers and two sisters who were telling (her) the same thing. My father would tell her the same thing. And it was like no matter how much we said it, (Bell’s) words were always more powerful than ours.”
Bell hadn’t previously been charged with domestic violence and he said at his sentencing that he was not abusive to Brown.
Latifa Brown loved cooking, dancing and being a mom, her sister said. Through Buffye Brown’s grief in the last year, she said Latifa’s son has given her a reason to continue on — “my sister’s heavenly light,” she said.
“Every time I hear him laugh, I hear her,” she said. “Every time I see him smile, I say she’s here.”
At least 23 minor children were left without a parent due to domestic violence homicides last year in the state, according to Violence Free Minnesota.
As Buffye Brown spoke Tuesday with her 2-year-old nephew by her side, she said she knows it’s not easy to leave domestic violence situations.
“If you’re going through it now, please get out and run,” she said. “… If you don’t do it for (yourself), do it for your beautiful babies. Do it for your brothers and your sisters, your mommy and your daddy.”
The Minnesota Day One Crisis Hotline can be reached 24/7 at 866-223-1111.