Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Article: Domestic-violence homicides increase in Central Florida

By Bianca Prieto, Orlando Sentinel

July 6, 2010


Michelle Archer's heart aches to know her children will grow up without their father.

On May 14, Chris Scott, Archer's ex-boyfriend and the father of her two children, was stabbed in the back and left on his kitchen floor to bleed to death.

Scott's wife, 28-year-old Monique Rolle Scott, was charged with his murder after she admitted to killing him in a fit of rage when he tried to leave her, according to court documents. She is being held without bail at the Orange County Jail.

"I'm so angry," Archer said between sobs. "It's like why? Why did she have to do that? Why did she have to take him away from us?"

That question is being asked more frequently in 2010 than it was last year, according to homicide statistics compiled by the Orlando Sentinel from area counties six months into the year.

Overall in Central Florida, the number of murders is down, but domestic-violence homicides are increasing.

Nearly one-third of the area's homicides this year are related to domestic violence, according to law-enforcement records. Twenty-five victims were killed at the hands of a family member.

Looking at this year's numbers against last year's, the trend is disturbing, said Carol Wick, CEO of Harbor House of Central Florida, the region's domestic-violence shelter.

Contributing factors don't seem to be going away. A high unemployment rate coupled with financial stressors, suicidal thoughts and access to weapons are part of the spike.

Orange, Lake and Volusia counties have seen the biggest increases in domestic-violence homicides when compared with numbers at the same time last year. In Orange, domestic-violence killings have nearly doubled from seven last year to 13 this year.

The Orange deaths include three collateral victims — someone who may not have been the intended target but was killed during the violence. Amanda Taylor, 28, and Francesca Jeffery, 22, were killed in April after murder suspect Jose Antonio Maisonet-Maldonado crashed into their car while fleeing from police.

Maisonet-Maldonado, 25, is accused of stabbing and running over his girlfriend, Berlitz Alvelo, near Jay Blanchard Park, then leading Orange County deputies on a chase down Colonial Drive near downtown. He is also charged with vehicular homicide in the deaths of Taylor and Jeffery.

The Lake County Sheriff's Office has investigated one homicide this year related to domestic violence, compared with none last year at this time. Volusia County went from one in 2009 to four so far this year.

Polk and Seminole counties have seen a slight decrease over last year. Seminole County had five in 2009 and four this year. Polk had four in 2009, compared with two this year. Osceola County investigated one last year and one this year.

Archer said dealing with Chris Scott's death has been difficult for her and her children. They all suffer sleep-related problems, and their daughter, 13-year-old Kaylea, now has a fear of knives, she said.

"Prior to his passing, he used to be on the phone all the time with my son, Paul," Archer said. "It's been really, really hard."

Archer, who lives in New York City, said Chris Scott was planning to move back to New York to live closer to his children. He planned to be at Kaylea's birthday on June 28.

Court documents show the homicide occurred during an argument when Scott tried to leave his wife.

Rolle Scott told investigators she stabbed him after she couldn't figure out how to use a gun.

When Rolle Scott learned her husband was dead, she admitted to investigators that she killed him "out of anger" and she "deserved to die," records show.

Neither Scott nor his wife had a documented history of domestic abuse.

Bianca Prieto can be reached at bprieto@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5620.

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