Brutal Attack Marks Utah’s 14th Domestic Violence-Related Death Of 2018
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The brutal attack in Millcreek that left a mother dead and her daughter critically injured had warning signs of escalating domestic violence, according to the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition.
“We want people to reach out and get help and also realize that when an abusive, dangerous person is losing control, danger goes up,” said Jenn Oxborrow, the coalition’s executive director. “So it’s all the more important to work with a professional advocate.”
Those professional advocates can help a victim be more prepared and create a safety plan. Normally, Oxborrow said, the violence doesn’t come out of nowhere.
“We hear that a lot, that he just snapped or this came out of the blue or he was such a nice guy,” she said. “Often times it’s because it’s been hidden and it’s been behind closed doors—it’s been a private family matter.”
Wednesday’s death of 50-year-old Valerie Brantzeg marked Utah’s 14th domestic violence-related death this year, according to a list compiled by the coalition. More than 40 percent of adult homicides are related to domestic violence.
“We have about 80 kids per year who witness the murder or attempted murder of their mother as a result of intimate partner violence in Utah,” Oxborrow said.
Police arrested Walter Brantzeg, age 54, in connection with the crowbar attack that also left the couple’s 13-year-old daughter in critical condition.
“They were in some kind of a dispute,” said Sgt. Melody Gray with the Unified Police Department. “We understand it might have been custodial.”
A neighbor at the apartment complex where Valerie Brantzeg lived said the community was aware of the danger.
“I knew that she was having DV issues, domestic violence issues, with an ex-spouse,” said neighbor Pamela Hart.
Hart said the management and the neighbors tried to keep the mother and daughter safe.
“This is inevitable,” Hart went on to say. “It was something that happened during the night. There’s only so much security that can be given.”
Sgt. Gray said the daughter suffered head injuries and was taken to Primary Children’s Hospital in extremely critical condition. She had just started 7th grade, but only attended one day after missing the first day of school, according to Granite School District spokesperson Ben Horsley.
A few of the girl’s friends were already aware of what happened when they arrived at school, prompting the district to make crisis counselors available.
“A child should never be afraid of their parent and a child should not be put in a situation that they could be in harm’s way,” said Andrea Miller, the district’s social work coordinator.
Miller said counselors will continue to monitor the situation and provide additional resources if needed. She urges the community to be more aware and protect children from domestic violence threats.
“They’re all our children and when you see something that you feel like isn’t right, please call authorities,” she said. “Don’t wait, don’t say, ‘Somebody else is going to do that.’”
The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition has a free and confidential hotline to help victims find shelter, counseling, child care and other services. The hotline number is 1-800-897-5465 (LINK). There is also a National Domestic Violence Hotline available at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
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