By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer
LEBANON - Three homicides and an attempted murder have struck Warren County since December, all but one of those crimes rooted in domestic violence, authorities say. And, Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel says, that's one reason she formed the new Family Violence Unit.
In a county that generally sees only one homicide a year, the recent increase in serious and fatal domestic violence attacks is disturbing, Hutzel said, outlining them:
Dec. 24: Virginia Gilbert, 42, was bludgeoned and stabbed in a near-fatal attack. Her ex-husband, Alvin Tucker, 50, is serving seven years in prison for that attempted murder.
Jan. 16: Kimberli Jo Burton, 44, was shot to death at her Wayne Township home. Her husband, Rocky Lee Barton, 46, is set for trial on an aggravated murder charge next week. He could get the death penalty if convicted.
May 13: Steve Ricketts, 45, was shot to death. His ex-wife, Rhonda, 50, is accused, but her attorneys say they intend to pursue a battered woman's defense. The case is on hold while her competency to stand trial is being evaluated.
The new unit coordinates work of various professionals and focuses not only on prosecution but also on assisting victims, raising public awareness, educating people on how to fight the problem, and training police how to handle domestic violence-related cases, she said.
The unit involves the county sheriff's office and other police agencies, the county Children Services Board, Adult Protective Services, the Children's Diagnostic Center, a pediatrician, and the local Abuse and Rape Crisis Shelter.
Hutzel said the case of David Staley, 33, shows the importance of coordinating services. Staley is accused of setting a July 30 fire at the Clearcreek Township home he shared with his elderly mother, who uses a wheelchair, Hutzel said.
His mother not only needed assistance in finding housing but also in dealing with the traumatic aftermath of the fire - and the prospect of testifying against her son, Hutzel said.
"It's an example of how difficult those cases can be," she said.
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