El Dorado County District Attorney's Office Strengthens Family Protection Unit

Posted: October 19, 2017

Since the recent passage of many soft on crime laws like Propositions 47 and 57, California has seen a troubling trend of an increase in violent crimes.  This disturbing surge in violent crimes has seen a dramatic increase in domestic violence homicides across the Sacramento Region.  We are now seeing far too many horrific cases like the Yolo County homicide where a man is alleged to have killed his 3 young children with a belt and attempted to kill his wife, and the recent October 4th murder of 28 year old Jessica Lyn Ball who was shot and killed by her fiancé in Shingle Springs.  Sadly, since January of this year, there have been 14 domestic violence related homicides in Sacramento County, and 7 domestic violence related homicides in El Dorado County.   

One of the ways to combat this troubling trend is to focus not only on the most horrific domestic violence cases, but also to increase our efforts to aggressively investigate and prosecute the lower level domestic violence cases which far too often precede a more tragic incident.  Although cases involving domestic violence vary in the degree of severity from misdemeanor level conduct to serious felonies, the majority of homicides in El Dorado County are the result of domestic violence.

In response to the increase of domestic violence cases and domestic violence related homicides throughout California and in El Dorado County, the District Attorney's Office has recently strengthened and expanded the District Attorney's Office Family Protection Unit.  The Unit is now led by Assistant District Attorney Joe Alexander, who supervises three experienced Deputy District Attorneys, a dedicated District Attorney Investigator and a specially trained Victim Advocate.  Just last week our office also applied for additional grant money with Cal OES to help fund our District Attorney Domestic Violence Investigator and the Victim Advocate from The Center for Violence Free Relationships.  The Family Protection Unit's sole focus is the investigation and prosecution of all forms of domestic violence including: Intimate partner abuse, elder abuse, and child abuse.  The Family Protection Unit works with local law enforcement agencies to train first responders in the investigation of cases involving domestic violence.  The Family Protection Unit also works with community-based organizations such as the Center for Violence-Free Relationships which raises public awareness and provides counseling and shelter to these vulnerable victims. 

Despite these efforts, there is often a stigma surrounding domestic violence and these cases remain very difficult to prosecute.  Victims of domestic violence are often reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement and prosecution.  In many situations, the victims will recant their prior statements and testify on behalf of their abusers during court proceedings.  There are numerous reasons that a victim of domestic violence may recant including: Fear of retaliation from the abuser, lack of trust in the criminal justice system, financial dependence on the abuser, and misplaced emotional loyalty toward the abuser.  Sometimes abusers convince the victims that they are to blame for the violence.  In turn, victims attempt to "fix" the problem by refusing to cooperate with prosecutors who are seeking to hold the abusers accountable for their actions.  

Public awareness of these issues is important if we are to make inroads against this growing problem.  Family, friends, neighbors and co-workers of domestic violence victims should not remain silent.  These vulnerable victims need support from the entire community in order to escape a violent relationship. 

"Domestic violence thrives behind closed doors and escapes punishment when people treat it as a 'private issue,' leaving victims without the help and support they need to come forward and help hold their abuser accountable," stated El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson.  "I hope that everyone will take the time to learn about how serious an issue domestic violence is in our community, and seek out ways they can help put a stop to domestic violence."