BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Louisiana consistently ranks among the worst states in the nation for the rate of domestic homicide, according to the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence. And 2014 is not off to a good start. Since January 1st police have linked at least six homicides in south Louisiana to family members:
January 1 – Walker Police find 34-year-old Tamila Wooley shot to death in her town home. Her 17-year-old son Eddie Robert Islan was arrested the next day and charged with her murder.
January 1 – Baton Rouge Police respond to an alleged family brawl inside a home on Convention Street. Detectives say 53-year-old Michael Taylor, Sr. later died after being hit in the head by his 30-year-old son Michael Taylor, II.
January 6 – The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office finds the bodies of 35-year-old Jacob Middleton, Sr. and his 2-year-old daughter. Investigators say the victim's son – 17-year-old Jacob Middleton, Jr. – confessed to shooting his father and half-sister after enduring years of abuse and family violence.
January 13 – Baton Rouge Police work a shooting on St. Joseph Street. Detectives say 19-year-old Devon Bowie shot and killed his 16-year-old cousin Patrick Williams. Bowie later turned himself in to authorities.
January 15 – Another apparent cousin-on-cousin killing. BRPD investigators say 29-year-old Maura Baquedano died after being hit in the head by 37-year-old Antonio Baquedano. He remains at large.
January 15 – The Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office investigates a double shooting just outside the Denham Springs city limits. Investigators determine 38-year-old Marlon Reed, Sr. shot and killed his estranged wife – 35-year-old Aleria Reed – before killing himself. Aleria was granted a restraining order against Marlon in December, but the pair shared custody of their two small children. Court documents revealed that Aleria feared for her life and was attempting to get full custody of the children.
"These are rare events nonetheless," said LSU criminologist Ed Shihadeh. "They're unfortunate and they tend to cluster, so it doesn't mean we're going to get another six or seven or 10 in another month. Nonetheless, it's very, very concerning."
Shihadeh works alongside Baton Rouge Police and other agencies as part of the BRAVE initiative to bring down group violence in Baton Rouge. While street crime and gang activity has decreased, he says domestic violence is a whole different animal.
"Those [incidents] are extremely hard to predict, extremely hard to prevent. They're not out in the open. They tend to take place behind closed doors. There is a general recognition even among people in BRAVE that it's time to start looking at domestic violence," he said.
Shihadeh says while there are some outreach programs in the area, more must be done to bring down Louisiana's alarming rates of domestic violence.
"One thing that would help tremendously is to have more outreach," he said. "Not cut funding to shelters, to have places where women can go, where children can go, and to set up a system of reporting like we've done with BRAVE. A system for people to say 'Look there's violence in my family,' and where there can be some kind of intervention."