DALLAS (CBSDFDW.COM) – A decrease in the number of domestic violence-related homicides are now traced back to one victim’s death in January 2013.
Karen Cox Smith, a 40-year-old executive assistant at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas was gunned down as she left work. Her brutal slaying — and a series of domestic abuse deaths that followed — inspired Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings to declare a war on domestic violence last March at a rally in front of Dallas’ City Hall.
“I was shocked by it,” said Mayor Rawlings.
Smith turned to police in December of 2012 for help, breaking her silence after years of abuse at the hands of her husband.
“She did everything she was supposed to do and it still didn’t matter,” according to Smith’s mother, Sara Horton.
Horton shared e-mails her daughter sent police, looking for updates on her husband’s arrest at the time.
One email read:
“I am confident it will be soon, and my children and I can relocate and no loner live i fear.”
Another email to a detective read:
“The warrant team contacted me. They plan to pick him up in the morning at work. Thanks so much!”
Thirty-five minutes later, Smith was dead — gunned down by her husband as she left work.
“Shot her in the back and shot her in the face. It just took me back, and then we looked into the numbers,” said Rawlings.
There were 31 domestic violence-related homicides in 2012. But Smith’s death struck a chord with city leaders and was the catalyst for change.
“They have really tried very hard to fix some of these things, and I know that they felt terrible. I know that they did. They all said that,” said Horton.
Dallas police tasked officers with cutting down the backlog of unserved domestic violence warrants. Detectives began screening victims, often handing them a phone with a emergency shelter dialed up. Police even started making visits to high risk victims this year. By next month, the DA’s office plans to begin accepting applications for protective orders online.
“You put all those things together, and you start to make a dent,” said Mayor Rawlings.
Police records show there’s already sign of progress. Last year, the number of family violence deaths dropped 26 percent. Thus far in 2014, it’s down another 33 percent.
That’s welcome news for Smith’s mother, who’s determined to see change. “I want something good to come from her death. And certainly she would not want anyone else to go through what she went through,” she said.
Click here to visit the city of Dallas’ domestic violence help page. It’s a comprehensive resource guide for those seeking help.
(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
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