'It's Horrific': Homicides Highlight Issue of Domestic Violence in Prince George's County - NBC4 Washington

Tracee Wilkins and the News4 team covering where you live

'It's Horrific': Homicides Highlight Issue of Domestic Violence in Prince George's County

Since the beginning of the year, eight homicides in the county have been attributed to domestic violence. That's one victim every eight days.

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    Tarekka Jones and her stepsister, Jalisa Walls-Harris, (both pictured) were fatally shot Monday night.

    Santa Lizama and Tarekka Jones lived a mile away from each other in Prince George's County, and on Monday, their lives ended in very similar ways. 

    Prince George's County police say both women were killed by men with whom they had romantic relationships.

    Police say Daniel Leonard Weste stabbed Lizama, 23, and another woman in Landover early Monday morning. The second woman was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

    Hours later, Jones, 26, and her stepsister, Jalisa Walls-Harris, were fatally shot by Kevin Tyrice Reynolds, police say. Court documents reveal Jones helped Reynolds get out of jail after she decided not to pursue charges he faced in connection with an assault in February. Less than a week later, she was dead.

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    Since the beginning of the year, eight homicides in the county have been attributed to domestic violence. That's one victim every eight days.  

    "It's horrific is what it is," State's Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said. "We're finding that, increasingly, family violence dominates what we are seeing in homicides."

    While the scourge of domestic violence is not new, Alsobrooks said the number of children involved in these cases is devastating. 

    Jones' three children were in the apartment at the time of the shooting, and one of her children, just 5 years old, was a witness to the crime.

    "I don't know what to attribute it to," Alsobrooks said. "That people have become so callous that they don't care. There's so much disregard for children."

    According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, children who are exposed to domestic violence "experience emotional, mental, and social damage." 

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    After the eighth domestic violence-related homicide in Prince George's County this year, State's Attorney Angela Alsobrooks spoke in support of a bill that would expand the legal definition of abuse. "We were raised in a culture that said 'You should mind your business,'" she said. "If you recognize something awful happening in a house, you can no longer mind your business. You have to get involved."
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    As police investigated Jones' death, Alsobrooks spoke in Annapolis in support of a bill that would expand the definition of domestic violence. Under the bill, people seeking protective orders can cite harassment and malicious destruction of property as reasons for needing an order.

    "We need every tool possible at our disposal to hold individuals accountable, remove dangerous people from our streets and to educate our citizens about what they're looking at when they see these cases," she said.

    But the community must also do their part in breaking the cycle. 

    "We can no longer mind our business. We were raised in a culture that said 'You should mind your business,'" she said. "If you recognize something awful happening in a house, you can no longer mind your business. You have to get involved."

    News4's Meagan Fitzgerald spoke with Prince George's County resident and domestic violence survivor Pamela Talley who said Jones' tragic story is all too familiar.

    She said her ex-husband abused her for years and she was scared to press charges until an incident last year that caused her daughter to call 911.

    "I looked in the eyes of my daughter and I said I must do this. This is the right thing and I went back to the police officer and asked him to go ahead and press charges," Talley said.

    She was able to escape her abuser and advises other women to seek help before it's too late.

    "The fear of staying - it's probably going to be greater than the fear of leaving," Talley said.

    If you or someone you know needs help, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233. Prince George's County also has a special unit that responds to domestic violence crimes.

    You can find more services and programs for individuals affected by domestic violence here.

    For free counseling and therapy, visit probonocounseling.org. And for My Sister's Place, which offers shelter in a safe house, click here or call 202-749-8000.