Orange County

Central Florida sees increase in deadly domestic violence incidents

ORLANDO, Fla. — Eleven people died in Central Florida in the last three months in three different murder-suicide cases.

At least two of those cases started as abusive relationships, and two of them involved children. In one of the cases, one of the abusers was most likely arrested for violence but never charged.

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The cases are examples of a rise in deadly domestic violence incidents in Central Florida.

Records show in two days nearly 20 people in Orange County were arrested for physically hurting a family member or partner.

Read: Orlando murder-suicide connects to domestic violence, police say

“With 20 incidents of violence, there’s a very good chance that some of those will escalate to a higher level, whether it’s more violence, more severe violence, or even the worst possibility of death,” said defense attorney Mark NeJame.

Former prosecutor Ryan Vescio said domestic violence cases are challenging because they expose victims’ stories, and the dynamics of a relationship with finances and children.

Read: Police identify family of 5 found dead in apparent murder-suicide near Orlando

Michelle Sperzel, with Harbor House, a domestic violence shelter, said the women who come to the shelter are victims at their last escape.

“The reason why they’re here is they knew that their abuser was going to kill them,” she said. “We’re asking for someone to give up absolutely everything and put their safety first.”

Read: “You feel touched by it”; Neighbors react after family found dead in apparent murder-suicide

NeJame said if there’s no intervention in these cases, whether it be through therapy or law enforcement, there’s a strong likelihood of repeat offenses.

The latest report from state law enforcement shows 18 people were murdered in Orange County from abusive relationships.

“That’s just simply the next step from when there’s a domestic violence,” NeJame said.

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Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.