Murder suicides continue to be a problem in our nation and in our state. On any given day in the US, someone in the US uses a gun to kill a loved one and then turns it on themselves. In some cases, the shooter kills multiple members of their own family, usually their children, before killing themselves. This is called familicide. Google “murder suicide gunshot” and click on news. The number and frequency of these incidents will probably surprise you.
In a span of just three days, there were two murder suicides in Tennessee, including one familcide. Last Thursday in Oak Ridge, 49-year-old Michael Deuschle shot his ex-wife, 43-year-old Tessa Deuschle and her 24-year-old daughter Chelsea Kessel before fatally shooting himself. Just a few days later on Saturday, 41-year-old Amy Williams was shot by ex-boyfriend Andrew Tucker, 40, in East Nashville. After fatally shooting Williams, Tucker walked away and then shot himself.
According to the most recent data from the Violence Policy Center, Tennessee is 9th in the nation for women murdered by men, most commonly with a firearm. The average age of the victims was 40-years-old. The overwhelming majority of women (96%) were killed by men they know. In the 14 years that the VPC has produced this annual report, Tennessee has always ranked in the top ten states for women murdered by men.
Research published in the American Journal of Public Health and reported on the Domestic Violence Hotline website reveals that the presence of a gun in domestic violence situations increases the risk of homicide for women by 500 percent. More than half of women murdered with guns are killed by family members or intimate partners.
Nationwide, two thirds of all gun deaths are suicides. Every year, around 600 Tennesseans use a gun to take their own life, according to the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network. It is the most common method of suicide. It also has the highest completion rate. Firearm suicides are unique in both their impulsivity and their lethality.
“Too often in our country and too often in our state, murder-suicides are the deadly interaction of these two categories of gun violence,” said Beth Joslin Roth, policy director for The Safe Tennessee Project. “While there are cases where a man is the victim or where the shooter and victim were not currently or previously romantically involved, the vast majority of these cases involve men shooting and killing women with whom they have or have had a relationship.”
So far, in the first five and half months of 2017, there have been at least ten murder suicide shootings in Tennessee.
“These terrible incidents happen in rural, urban, and suburban communities,” Roth noted. “They happen in families of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. In many cases, there is a history of domestic violence, although not always. The only common denominator is access to a gun. While we support a person’s right to own a firearm, we can’t ignore the fact that a gun in the home is statistically more likely to be used to shoot a person in the home than an intruder.”
2017 TENNESSEE MURDER SUICIDES – JANUARY THROUGH JUNE 20
June 2017 – Oak Ridge, TN
Police officers conducting a welfare check found the bodies of 49-year-old Michael Deuschle, 43-year-old Tessa Deuschle and 24-year-old Chelsea Kessel. A preliminary investigation indicates Kessel and Tessa Deuschle were shot first, and then Michael Deuschle shot himself.
June 2017 – Nashville, TN
Amy Williams, 40, was outside her home talking to her sister when her former boyfriend drove by and parked his truck. She walked to where he was to speak with him. About 5 minutes later, he shot and killed her. He then walked towards his truck and turned the gun on himself.
April 2017 – Jonesborough, TN
Police officers were dispatched to a residence to investigate a report of gun shots. They found 61-year-old William Knight and 57-year-old Janice Knight both dead. Police indicated the shooting was a homicide-suicide.
March 2017 – Greeneville, TN
Jennifer Sorrells , 39, called police to report that she had been shot and was hiding from the man who shot her. When police arrived, they found 40-year-old James Cowgill dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Sorrells was found in locked bathroom with a fatal gunshot wound to the head. A .22-caliber rifle was found under Cowgill and a 12-gauge shotgun was found on the bed. Cowgill had a documented history of domestic violence and was scheduled to appear in court in April.
March 2017 – Bemis, TN
A woman who was scheduled to testify against a robbery suspect was fatally shot by the suspect who then turned the gun on himself.
February 2017 – Memphis, TN
64-year-old James Lea fatally shot his wife, Lisa Lea, 55, and then used the gun to kill himself.
February 2017 – Memphis, TN
A couple who had been experiencing marital problems and was discussing divorce were found dead in their home from gunshot injuries. 65-year-old Margaret Swearengen had sustained multiple gunshots and her husband Tom Swearengen had been killed by a single gunshot.
February 2017 – Alcoa, TN
In Alcoa, 46-year-old Dawn Hodge shot and killed her husband, 55-year-old Ladonald Hodge and then used the gun to kill herself.
January 2017 – Donelson, TN
A 43-year-old man shot and killed his 34-year-old live-in girlfriend and then fatally shot himself.
January 2017 – East Ridge, TN
Joseph “Charley” Yates, 54, shot his longtime girlfriend Ellen McKenzie, 48, in the head, then put the shotgun barrel in his mouth and pulled the trigger, according to a preliminary report from the Hamilton County Medical Examiner’s Office.
ACADEMIC RESEARCH AND FACT SHEETS RELATED TO RISK OF FIREARMS IN THE HOME
Guns in the Home and Risk of a Violent Death in the Home: Findings from a National Study
American Journal of Epidemiology
Gun Violence: Facts and Statistics
Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania
Risks and Benefits of a Gun in the Home
American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine
Guns and Suicide: The Hidden Toll
Harvard University School of Public Health