MANKATO — While the number of intimate partner homicides in Minnesota tied a 30-year low in 2018, victim advocates say much work remains in reducing domestic violence.
Violence Free Minnesota’s recently released 2018 homicide report detailed 14 deaths related to intimate partner violence, including Joyce Engelbrecht and Rachel Linder of St. James and Lori Moore of Beauford. Last year’s report, when the nonprofit was still known as the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, counted 27 homicides.
The drop from one year to the next is encouraging, said Committee Against Domestic Abuse Executive Director Jason Mack, but a longer view of annual homicide numbers shows no downward trend.
“The fact we’re seeing the trend be about the same when you look at the average, that to me is really concerning,” he said.
On top of its 2018 analysis, the nonprofit’s 30-year report tallied 685 domestic violence deaths in Minnesota since 1989. The average of about 23 deaths per year was exceeded as recently as 2017 and 2015.
“If we see a number of years in a row of low numbers, yeah it’d be really encouraging,” said Violence Free Minnesota Executive Director Liz Richards. “But at this point in time if you look over 30 years we’ve dipped high and dipped low.”
The report outlines recommendations to eliminate intimate partner deaths, from opening up more data collection opportunities on gun violence to increased funding for domestic abuse transformation programs. Firearms were used in nearly half of the homicides, making them the most frequent weapons of choice.
Richards said knowing how perpetrators access firearms would help, but state agencies aren’t allowed to collect such data. It makes it especially difficult to propose solutions.
“I don’t know what the right policy solution is, because we don’t have the ability to get good data,” she said.
Scott Engelbrecht was charged with murder in June 2018 after shooting his wife, Joyce, and her daughter, Linder, in St. James, according to a criminal complaint. Timothy Moore killed himself after shooting his wife, Lori, in February 2018 at their Beauford area home.
Although Minnesota does consistently fund domestic violence programming, Richards said gaps persist for programs designed to transform the behavior of those who commit domestic violence. Violence Against Minnesota will lobby lawmakers for additional funding in the next session.
Mack said CADA’s small domestic violence transformation program serves a wide region. It’s only funded by fees for attendance, so expanding it to more people working to change their behaviors would be a challenge without further funding.
Some other parts of the state don’t have any programs available for offenders. Mack said it leads to jail time and probation being the sole deterrents, which isn’t shown to be effective.
“We know often times people who committed domestic violence are usually repeat offenders, unless you attend some sort of programming that helps you change,” he said. “Typically jail time or probation on its own is not a deterrent to that behavior.”