DES MOINES, Iowa (KCAU) — The Iowa Attorney General has announced that 2021 had the highest number of domestic violence-related fatalities in the last ten years, and Sioux City has had the highest number of deaths in Siouxland since 1995. 

Domestic violence as cited as the cause of death for 20 people across Iowa over the year 2021, and three have lost their lives in 2022, including Shelby Woizeschke, of Milford, according to a release from the Iowa Attorney General.

“The loss of 20 lives to domestic violence is tragic,” said Crime Victim Assistance Division (CVAD) Director Sandi Tibbetts Murphey, “Adding seven additional deaths to the report in just the final four months of 2021 spotlights the devastating effects that domestic violence has for victims and families across Iowa.”  

The release cited Domestic Violence Fatality Chronicle, stating 14 women, four men, and two bystanders died from Domestic Violence.  

Tibbetts Murphy indicated that the increasing number of domestic violence fatalities correlates with significant decreases in federal funding for victim services.  

CVAD announced in 2021 that it was awarded $12.76 million for victim assistance and victim compensation programs for those residing in Iowa.  

The funds applied to the federal fiscal year of 2022, representing a 20% decrease in funding from the $16.1 million for the 2021 fiscal year. The release indicated that CVAD predicts 23,500 more victims will go unassisted because of the decreased funds.  

The release specified that the Crime Victims Fund is made up solely of federal criminal fines, penalties, and bond forfeitures rather than taxpayer dollars. The 1984 Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) established the fund and over the years, changes in the way the U.S. Department of Justice resolves cases have caused the funding to decrease.  

Congress passed the VOCA fix in July 2021 to sustain funding, but Tibbetts Murphy indicated that it would take several years before Iowa and other states see results for crime victim programs.  

“Our ability to serve victims has continued to be limited by funding cuts and the ongoing pandemic,” said Tibbetts Murphy, “We must do all we can to ensure that Iowans are able to reach available services to address not only domestic violence but other crime victim needs.  

Tibbetts Murphy explained that victim service organizations have been exacerbated by operating costs related to housing, cleaning, and other mitigation efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Since 1995, the Domestic Violence Fatality Chronicle has been issued twice a year by the Iowa Attorney General’s CVAD which details the lives lost to domestic violence across the state. The CVAD releases a report during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week from April 24 to 30.  

Graph courtesy of the Iowa Attorney General’s Domestic Fatality Chronicle; outlines the percentage of women, bystanders, and men killed.

According to the Domestic Violence Fatality Chronicle, from 1995 to 2022, 365 women, men, minors, and bystanders in Iowa have passed away as a result of domestic violence.

A breakdown showed that 249 women and 47 men were killed by partners, and 69 bystanders were killed in Iowa over the last 27 years. 

Of those people, 199 were shot, 82 were strangled, suffocated, beaten, or drowned, 64 were stabbed, 12 were poisoned, burned, or killed deliberately in car crashes, and 8 were killed by an unknown method.  

The chronicle indicated that 34 children were killed in domestic abuse murders. The numbers explained 21 were killed by their father, 1 child was killed by their stepfather, 6 children were killed by a male roommate living in their household, 1 child was killed by a man who dated their mother, and 5 in-uteri fetuses were killed.  

More than half of the victims were said to be killed by someone they had an intimate relationship with. A breakdown showed 46.1% were past or present spouses and 34.9% were past or present dating partners.  

Graph courtesy of the Iowa Attorney General’s Domestic Fatality Chronicle; outlines the percentage of relationships victims had with their killer

According to the chronicle, 136 adults were killed by their current or former spouse, 103 were killed by people they dated, 56 were killed by past or present roommates, 10 were killed by their intimate partner’s ex-partner or spouse, 8 were killed by their children’s past or present partners, 6 were killed by their friends’ past or present partner, 4 were killed by their sibling or cousin’s past or present partner, 4 had no relationship with their killer, 1 was killed by her son, 1 was killed by their brother, 1 was killed by their stepfather, and 1 was killed by a hitman hired by her husband.  

The data displayed 93 women and 11 men were known to have left or were leaving their partners when the killings occurred. 

The year 2006 had the highest record of domestic violence-related deaths since 1995, with 16 women killed, 1 man killed, and 5 bystanders killed for a total of 22 lives lost.  

A total of 470 children were said to be affected by the deaths of their parents. Of those, 292 children were minors, and 103 children were present at the scene.  

The chronicle specified that 182 men and women pleaded guilty or were found guilty to homicide or related crimes, 98 offenders committed suicide after the murder (accounting for one-third of offenders), 26 have pending charges, 4 were not charged, 4 died unrelated to suicide prior to facing charges, and 3 were convicted of non-homicide charges.  

Of the 365 people who were killed because of domestic violence, 17 were located in Sioux City, and at least 8 were in cities in Siouxland.

Graph courtesy of the Iowa Attorney General’s Domestic Fatality Chronicle

Current resources available for Iowans that are free and confidential include: 

Iowa Domestic Violence Helpline can connect to the nearest Iowa Programs that offer crisis counseling and safety planning, legal advocacy, access to community resources, and references to shelter and housing assistance. The Iowa Domestic Violence Helpline answers calls 24 hours a day, year-round. Call 800-770-1650 to be connected with someone.  

The National Domestic Violence Hotline, which can be reached at 800-799-7233 (SAFE), TTY 800-787-3224, or the text line ‘START’ to 88788, offers connections to local resources and programs. Each point of contact is available 24/7.  

Love is Respect Teen Dating Violence Hotline can connect to local resources and provide information about personal safety and healthy relationships. The hotline can be reached at 866-331-9474 or text line “LOVEIS” 22522.