By: Jane Shivas

TRENTON, NJ – The New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence (NJCEDV) mourns and remembers the lives lost to domestic violence in July and August 2016. East Orange & Montclair were particularly impacted by the tragic deaths affecting the Johnson family owners of Boogie’s in East Orange. We keep all these victims, their families and communities in our thoughts and hearts.

  • July 7, Carlstadt – Michelle Sabia, 44, was shot and killed by her husband Scott Sabia before killing himself.
  • July 19, Pennsville – Seema Singh, 42, was allegedly stabbed to death by her husband Nitian Singh.
  • July 30, Ridgefield – Mary Jo Osgood, 55, of Rhode Island, was found in the trunk of her ex-husband’s car, dead from gunshot wounds. Frank Osgood, a former police officer, took State Trooper’s on a car chase ending on the NJ Turnpike where he was discovered deceased in the vehicle with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
  • August 9, Burlington Township – Mashanda Johnson, 48, and her son Trey Johnson, 10, were shot and killed by Rueben Johnson, the victims’ husband and father, before taking his own life.
  • August 17, Ewing – Rufina Castro, 51, was reportedly strangled to death by her boyfriend Carlos Ortiz.
  • August 20, Pennsauken – Jamil Baskerville, 2, was allegedly beaten to death by Zachary Tricoche after a physical altercation with the boy’s mother, reportedly Tricoche’s girlfriend.
  • August 22, Collingswood – Joseline Perez, 36, was stabbed to death by her estranged husband Timothy Moorman.
  • August 26, West Deptford – Edward Coles, Jr., 58, and his wife Rosemarie Coles, 55, were allegedly beaten to death by their son Ryan Coles.

While we cannot speak to the specifics of any of the above cases, the victims were adults and children from different backgrounds and parts of NJ who represent the broad impact that domestic violence has on our communities. They were parents, sons and daughters, siblings, neighbors, classmates, co-workers and friends. Every domestic violence homicide leaves behind surviving family members, friends, and communities left questioning the events and senseless violence that led to the tragic loss of their loved ones.

In New Jersey, the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act recognizes victims of domestic violence as individuals who had a relationship with the perpetrator of violence – a current or former spouse, a current or former dating partner, as well as current or former household members who are often family members. We often discuss domestic violence among married or dating couples, yet the reality is that violence and abuse can occur in any type of intimate or family relationship.

There is no single solution for reducing domestic violence homicides, yet we know it is possible. Models such as the Family Justice Center and Domestic Violence High Risk Teams are being implemented in various parts of the country and show promise in their ability to identify high risk domestic violence offenders. In many cases, these initiatives are leading to safer and more effective interventions. Both models require a strong partnership among many providers including domestic violence advocates, law enforcement, prosecutors, courts and hospitals. Such collaborations are guided by the use of the Danger Assessment, a validated evidence-based tool developed by Jacquelyn Campbell, PhD, RN, FAAN, of the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. Currently, there are two Family Justice Centers operating in New Jersey located in Newark and Morristown.

Mary Houtsma, Director of the Essex County Family Justice Center, states that “the Danger Assessment Instrument (DAI) is utilized with all clients upon intake to identify and prioritize high-risk individuals. The multidisciplinary team at the Family Justice Center with whom the victim chooses to work utilizes the information from the DAI to respond to the victim’s needs and to work with them in developing a safety plan.”

This past August, Dr. Campbell trained approximately 75 domestic violence advocates from across the state who are now certified in the use and administration of the DAI. This vital tool weighs a perpetrator’s pattern of abuse and control along with other high risk factors that have proven to be indicative of potentially fatal domestic violence. The assessment includes questions related to a perpetrator’s unemployment, the presence of children in the relationship that are not the perpetrator’s own, changes in the relationship, history of strangulation, and the presence of firearms – all circumstances that would not ordinarily be identified in a criminal history check, yet significant factors when assessing for potential lethality. As Dr. Campbell has reported, an arrest history is predictive of re-assault, but not homicide; therefore it is necessary to examine the scope of the abuse and not rely solely on a documented history.

NJCEDV is committed to working with our partners and communities to implement solutions that reduce domestic violence homicides and fatalities in New Jersey. Learn more about the Family Justice Centers, Domestic Violence High Risk Team Model, and the DAI via the links below. Follow NJCEDV to learn more about pioneering initiatives, our network of members, and how every New Jersey citizen can be part of the solution that ends domestic violence in the state.

About the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence (NJCEDV):
Known as the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women (NJCBW) for nearly 40 years, NJCEDV provides leadership, support and resources on the prevention of domestic violence for all victims in New Jersey through advocacy, education and training, technical assistance and community awareness.

Help is Available:
To learn if a relationship is abusive or if abuse is suspected, it is important to take it seriously, get information and share resources. Help is available in every county and for every victim through a network of programs dedicated to serving domestic violence victims and their families. The State Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 800-572-SAFE (7233). A list of programs and services is available at NJCEDV.org.

Original article: The NJ Coalition to End Domestic Violence Recognizes 13 Lives Lost to Domestic Violence in July and August