Experts say preventing domestic violence fatalities are a coordinated effort. - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Experts say preventing domestic violence fatalities are a coordinated effort.

IOWA CITY (KWWL) - Friends of a murdered woman say she was having relationship problems with her ex-boyfriend before they were both found dead in a Lone Tree home this weekend.

Authorities say Timothy Mellinger asphyxiated Tina O'Leary, before turning a gun on himself.

Domestic violence experts and law enforcement officials say it's sometimes difficult to spot warning signs before murder-suicide situations.

The executive director of Iowa City's Domestic Violence Intervention Program, Kristie Fortmann-Doser, says preventing tragedies like the one in Lone Tree require a coordinated effort between law enforcement, and the community.

In a statement given Tuesday morning by O'Leary's cousin, Veronica Eveland, she said Tina "was always smiling...and will be missed by all family and friends." But Eveland told us not everything was happy in her cousin's life. She confirmed O'Leary was scared of Mellinger, but never felt physically threatened by him.

Fortmann-Doser says those types of situations are difficult. "Victims may not always be able to reach out in the ways we think they should." She says that presents a challenge to family and friends, who may be looking for signs of an abusive or potentially abusive relationship.

"How do they act when they're upset or angry? How do they treat their partner when they're in a group; do they treat them with respect? Do they do things that make them feel uncomfortable or humiliate them in front of others?"

Unfortunately, those signs aren't always there, or easy to spot. Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek says Mellinger had nothing on his record to indicate he would commit physical violence.

"To not have any type of criminal history, and then make that leap to serious injury or murder, that's maybe less common, in my opinion." Pulkrabek says his department had only dealt with Mellinger once before.

"The outcome of that was we served Mr. Mellinger with a criminal trespass warning," said Pulkrabek. That was to prevent Mellinger from contacting O'Leary in any way.

When a concerned caller saw his truck at O'Leary's home, sheriff's deputies responded. It was too late, but Fortmann-Doser says it's that type of community response that can save lives.

"It's really critical that when we know somebody's in danger and we're aware there's a difficult situation, we are, as a community, paying close attention."

If you or someone you know is in a relationship that you feel may turn dangerous, you can call the Domestic Violence Intervention Program: 1 (800) 373-1043

Online Reporter - Brady Smith

 

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