21 died of domestic violence in Minnesota last year, report says

ST. PAUL -- At least 21 people died as a result of domestic violence in the state last year, according to a report released Tuesday by the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women.

ST. PAUL - At least 21 people died as a result of domestic violence in the state last year, according to a report released Tuesday by the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women.

In one-third of the cases, children were present when their mother was killed or when her body was discovered, according to the 2016 Femicide Report. Two of the 21 victims were children - 10-year-old Nahily Ronquillo and 13-year-old Luis Ronquillo, fatally shot by their father in Minneapolis in September as he attempted to kill their mother.

"The trauma of children witnessing violence cannot be understated," said Erica Staab-Absher, executive director of HOPE Center in Faribault, speaking at the release of the annual report in St. Paul. She pointed to the case of Courtney Monson, 30, of Ramsey in April.

Monson's four children, ages 2 to 12, were at their house at the time of her shooting. She took refuge with three of them in her basement when her husband shot her multiple times before killing himself.

"Her children begged for their lives after watching their mother shot dead," Staab-Absher said. "Her 12-year-old son held his 2-year-old sister and ran to safety as his mother was being murdered. In the past five years, over 150 children have lost their mother due to domestic violence."


The Femicide Report recommends family court and child-protective services should assess for domestic violence and their responses should take violence into account.

The 21 homicides recorded in the report released Tuesday include 18 women who were killed by a current or former intimate partner, two family members and one bystander.

The 2015 Femicide Report documented 34 cases.

"We do not diminish the lives lost by describing greater or lesser numbers as a trend," said Becky Smith, Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women's program manager for public awareness. "In fact, throughout the 28 years of the Femicide Report, the number of victims murdered due to domestic violence has consistently remained in the double digits."

About 80 percent of female homicide victims in Minnesota from 2005 to 2015 died in domestic violence cases, according to the coalition.

In last year's instances, at least five of the perpetrators had documented histories of past abuse, Smith said. Antonio St. Marie, who is charged with murder in the shooting of his wife in Wadena in November, "has a long documented history," she said.

In 2009, St. Marie threatened to kill an ex-girlfriend's family members and was convicted of terroristic threats, notes the report. In 2011, St. Marie threatened to kill another ex-girlfriend, choked her, and assaulted her and other relatives with a knife; he was convicted of felony domestic assault.

Last November, St. Marie was charged with felony domestic against his wife, 27-year-old Margaret St. Marie. He bailed out of jail, then went and held St. Marie, their 3-year-old and his wife's brother "hostage as he threatened them with a firearm," according to the report.


A few hours later, when Margaret St. Marie pleaded with Antonio St. Marie to let her brother leave with her child, "after she hugged her brother and child good-bye, Antonio shot and killed her," the report continued, noting a domestic abuse no-contact order was in effect at the time.

"We need the criminal justice system to engage in a process that demands serious change for batterers," Smith said. "Without addressing the root causes of abuse and changing perpetrators' behavior, there will always be another victim."

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