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'Alarmed and very concerned': Domestic violence advocates weigh in on recent murder-suicides

There have been four murder-suicides in central Iowa since the start of 2023.

DES MOINES, Iowa — If you or someone you know needs help in an abusive relationship, call 1-800-770-1650 or text ‘IOWAHELP’ to 20121.

Since the start of 2023, four murder-suicides in central Iowa have shocked community members and advocates.

In January, an attempted murder-suicide in West Des Moines left the attacker dead, while the victim survived. Also in January, a Windsor Heights woman was killed by her partner, before he later took his own life. 

Later, in February, two separate murder-suicides in Waukee and Indianola took the lives of four people. 

"We've been alarmed and very concerned," said Lindsay Pingel with the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence. "It seems every week, every other week, we are hearing about individuals who are losing their lives to gender violence."

Pingel says there's not one thing advocates can point to that's created this uptick in murder-suicides, saying every case is different. 

However, typically in violent relationships, she says there's a critically dangerous point. 

"Domestic violence is the dynamics of power and control," Pingel said. "And when we see cases like this, there's, you know, often it comes out that the person the victim was leaving or had left or was planning to end our relationship with a person who harmed."

In one of these recent murder-suicide cases, the victim was strangled by her abuser just months before he ultimately killed her. 

The National Domestic Violence Hotline says if someone is strangled by a partner, their chances of being killed by them jumps ten times. 

In Iowa, decades worth of data shows more than half of people killed in domestic violence situations were killed with a gun. 

"We're not opposed to individuals having the right to bear arms," Pingel said. "However, we do think that limitations should be put in place for individuals who are going to use that firearm specifically to harm someone else."

Pingel says if you're concerned about a loved one's relationship and believe they're in danger, reach out to them and be a safe space for listening. 

"What they want is help," Pingel said. "They want someone to say I want the violence to stop, and how can we do that together and validating that that's okay for an individual to seek out."

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