Tuesday, January 23, 2018

National Experts Present on Strangulation in Domestic Violence Cases

New research has confirmed a stronger-than-previously-known link between strangulation and the likelihood that an offender will kill or nearly kill someone during a domestic violence incident.

Domestic violence-related police calls constitute the single largest category of calls received by police, accounting for 15 to more than 50 percent of all calls.[1] When police officers respond, they know the situation can be volatile for both them and the abuser’s victim: The killer in almost one third of female homicides is an intimate partner. And from 2010-2014, 22% of law enforcement officer "line of duty" deaths occurred while responding to a call for service involving a domestic dispute.

More than 100 attended the training, including law enforcement,
attorneys, treatment providers and victim advocates.
On Jan. 16, 2018, Colorado's Domestic Violence Offender Management Board (DVOMB) hosted a pair of national domestic violence experts to explain the strangulation research and provide training to a wide audience of professionals who deal with domestic violence, including law enforcement, prosecutors, treatment providers, supervisors of offenders, and victim advocates.

During the half-day training, national experts Casey Gwinn and Gael Strack, Co-Founders of Alliance for HOPE International and the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention, covered:

  • Findings from a study of 300 misdemeanor strangulation cases
  • The lethality of strangulation
  • Identifying the signs and symptoms of strangulation cases
  • Anatomy and medical aspects in surviving and non-surviving victims
  • Investigation, documentation, and prosecution of non-fatal strangulation cases as felonies, or attempted homicides
  • Use of experts and court considerations
  • Advocating for victims of strangulation
  • Best practices, new resources and next steps.

Presenters showed how to investigate
and document strangulation cases.
"Strangulation has been identified as one of the most lethal forms of domestic violence and sexual assault: unconsciousness may occur within seconds and death within minutes. When domestic violence perpetrators choke (strangle) their victims, not only is this felonious assault, but it may be an attempted homicide," Gwinn and Strack explained. "Strangulation is an ultimate form of power and control, where an offender can demonstrate control over the victim’s next breath. It may have devastating psychological effects or a potentially fatal outcome."

Even if a victim survives strangulation, s/he is vastly more likely to die during a future incident; surviving victims of strangulation assault are 750% more likely to become a homicide victim. (Glass, et al., 2008)

In August 2017, the DVOMB updated its policies to recommend that the professionals who treat and supervise offenders apply a higher-risk approach to offenders who have engaged in strangulation; in 2016, the Colorado legislature passed legislation that allows prosecutors to pursue felony charges in cases of first and second degree assault where evidence of strangulation is present because of the physical, neurological, and psychological health consequences for victims of  strangulation and the increased risk for domestic violence fatalities.

For more information, visit the DVOMB web site.

[1] Source: Friday, P., V. Lord, M. Exum, and J. Hartman. “Evaluating the Impact of a Specialized Domestic Violence Police Unit.” National Institute of Justice, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, May 2006.

Friday, January 19, 2018

State Patrol Launches New System to Streamline Record Keeping

The Colorado State Patrol is rolling out a new records management system that will improve real-time communications and help Troopers spend less time entering data –  meaning they'll have more time to observe violators and enforce traffic laws.

At first glance, the topic of "records management" doesn't seem like a very exciting aspect of the world of law enforcement, but it's critical to the work Troopers do. Accurate records provide many things, including:

  • Transparency to the public
  • Fairness to violators
  • Actionable data to inform the justice system
  • Information for victims and their advocates
  • Historic records
  • And even trends to help inform strategies to reduce fatal and injury crashes on Colorado's roads
The new records management system won't just keep records; it will serve as a tool to help State Patrol members communicate and share information. In fact, with the roll-out of the new system, this is the first time in the State Patrol's history where they will be able to communicate crash and contact data in real time with each other. 

One of the goals of the deployment is to reduce duplicate data entry done by the trooper. The new system will leverage information (vehicle, person and location data) entered by other troopers and by consolidating forms. As a result, leaders expect the system to help improve Trooper awareness by allowing the Trooper more time to observe the violator because s/he is spending less time entering data during a stop.

The new tool will roll out district by district in Colorado in 2018.

2017 Was a Year of Cold Case Closure for CBI

2017 was a big year for the CBI involving Cold Cases.

CBI staff manage Colorado's Cold Case database and work directly with law enforcement in hopes of shedding new light on cases where the trail has gone cold. Agents and forensic scientists investigate cold cases across the state -- some that are decades old, such as the Rocky Ford cold case where two teenage girls went missing 35 years ago.

Their aim is to get justice for the victims and closure for victims families, and the ultimate desired outcome is to achieve the arrest and conviction of those responsible. In 2017, CBI's work paid off in two big cases.

In December 2017, the work of CBI Investigations and Forensic Services in Pueblo helped secure the conviction of the murderer of Michael Rust, a man who disappeared in 2009 near the town of Saguache.
In January 2016, the remains of Rust were located in Saguache County. An investigation by CBI and partner agencies led to the identification of Charles Moises Gonzales (age 47), as the suspect believed to have killed Rust and buried the remains. CBI agents determined Gonzales burglarized Rust's home and shot Rust in the back of the head on March 31, 2009.
On Dec. 7, 2017, Gonzales was convicted in Saguache District court of first-degree murder, first-degree burglary, felony murder, theft under $500, abuse of a corpse, and tampering or destroying evidence in Rust's case. Gonzales was sentenced to life without parole.

CBI's work also contributed to an arrest in the case of Kelsie Schelling, who disappeared in 2013 at the age of 22. She was last seen on February 4, 2013, after traveling from her home in Denver to Pueblo, where her boyfriend (Lucas) lived.

Following CBI-led searches of the Pueblo area for Kelsie’s remains in late November, Donthe Lucas was arrested on Dec. 1, 2017, in connection with the disappearance and death of Schelling. Lucas, 25, was arrested for first-degree murder for his alleged connection to the homicide of Schelling. Lucas is being held without bond. He was already in custody on an unrelated charge (robbery) when CBI Pueblo agents and Pueblo Police detectives arrested him for his alleged role in Schelling’s death.