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Domestic violence rising in Killeen

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Posted: Sunday, October 24, 2004 12:00 pm | Updated: 3:13 pm, Wed Aug 15, 2012.

By Jimmie Ferguson

Killeen Daily Herald

Her face was cut, bruised, red and slightly swollen.

The woman said her husband slapped her in the face several times during an argument.

This young woman, a victim of assault by a family member, was lucky. She lived to tell the police about her attack.

Sgt. Erin Elizabeth Edwards, a 24-year-old Fort Hood soldier living in Killeen, wasnt.

Her estranged husband, Sgt. William McKinley Edwards, 24, shot her to death July 22 as she was leaving her home for work. He then walked across the street and shot himself to death, leaving their two children a son, 4, and a 20- month-old daughter without parents.

Neighbors and court records revealed the couple had a recent history of domestic violence a crime that has accelerated in the city of Killeen.

Its like an epidemic, said Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Bill Cooke of Killeen. Theres at least one case every day.

The Killeen Police Department recognized the increase two years ago the reason it then created its Domestic Violence Unit, said KPD Investigator Richard Tramp, a member of the unit.

From January through August, Tramp said 1,312 domestic violence cases were reported about 200 more than were reported during the same period a year ago.

Most of the reasons why are about finances, said Tramp, noting this rising crime does not discriminate between military or civilian families. I would have to check each case, but I think its about even.

Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Garland K. Potvin agrees with Tramp as far as the people involved in these cases.

After the assailants are arrested in Killeen, they see either Potvin or Cooke, who assess their bonds.

Potvin said domestic violence involves husbands against wives, wives against husbands, boyfriends assaulting girlfriends and girlfriends beating up their boyfriends.

Some have been children filing against their parents for being abusive ... using too much parental discipline, the judge said, adding that the number of these cases are not as frequent as the other situations.

I dont know whether its the weather or what, but theres been an increase of family violence over the past two years, Potvin said. And some of them have been more serious and have gone to the point where it hasnt been just assault with bodily injury but aggravated assault with a deadly weapon or the threat with a deadly weapon or going through with the threat, causing a serious bodily injury or in a worst scenario ... death.

To keep it from reaching the worst-case scenario, the judges try to keep the parties apart for a cooling-off period by issuing a magistrates order for emergency protection.

This is a temporary order that justices of the peace have the right to issue if its a family member involved, said Potvin, emphasizing this paperwork must be filled out before the assailant is arrested and arraigned. This paperwork can only be issued at the time of the arraignment by the judicial official.

Potvin defines family members as people residing together in the same household, whether they are married or not, and regardless of their sex.

Restraining orders, which are good for a year, are only issued by a district court judge, Potvin pointed out.

A lot of people dont realize that they have a right to this protection, said Potvin, adding that protection orders are issued for no less than 31 days or no more than 61 days.

You can look at it as a cooling-off period. Because if its a serious enough problem, this gives one or the other enough time to either seek counseling or to seek an attorney to get a divorce or whatever, the judge said.

Realizing some offenders have no respect for the protection order, Potvin said that the document itself is just a piece of paper that states the offender is not supposed to be within 1,000 feet of this person for a certain period of time.

This is just another tool that says if it is violated, that there can be another charge assessed in addition to the original charge, Potvin said.

According to court records, Potvin usually sets a $5,000 bond on an assault with bodily injury to a family member offense. If a protection order is issued, each time it is violated, he increased the bond $5,000 more than it was last set.

So whether that piece of paper is going to keep them from violating that protection order ... is up to the individual, said Potvin, referring to several cases to include the Edwards case in which a death or serious injuries resulted when individuals violated a protection order.

Contact Jimmie Ferguson at jferguson@kdhnews.com

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