Three Utahns Killed In Suspected Domestic Violence Incidents

May 23, 2021, 6:36 PM | Updated: Apr 14, 2023, 2:54 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Three people were killed over the weekend in Utah in what police suspect may be domestic violence incidents.

Experts said those incidents were part of an alarming trend, adding that they fear we have a recipe for disaster with increasing mental health concerns and gun sales during the pandemic.

“There was some evidence of gun fire,” said Sgt. Matt Oehler with the South Salt Lake Police Department.

Police suspect the shots, which were heard by neighbors late Saturday night in South Salt Lake, were domestic violence-related.

“Early indications seem to be a strong possibility of a murder-suicide, however again, no conclusions have been made,” said Oehler.

The victims, a man and woman, were believed to be in their 30’s.

“We know that at least one person lives there, and again, the relationship between the parties is being investigated,” said Oehler.

In Southern Utah, police have opened an investigation into a domestic violence murder in Ivins.

Steven Timothy Smith, 59, allegedly shot and killed his wife after she told him she was leaving him.

Sadly, officials with the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition said they suspect the shootings may be part of an alarming trend in domestic violence.

“The pandemic, 2020 did seem to experience an increase in domestic violence deaths,” said Dr. Sonia Salari who is on the board of directors for the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition.

Salari said deaths jumped to 46 during the pandemic.

With the death total for 2021 now at 11, Salari, who studies murder-suicides, thinks the uptick is part of the pandemic’s collateral damage. She thinks contributing factors are isolation, people mistakenly thinking emergency shelters were closed, and victims spending more time at home with their aggressors or choosing to postpone ending a relationship.

“It’s sad,” said Salari.

Salari also expressed concern about the increase in gun sales during the pandemic.

“It was sort of like the toilet paper run,” she said.

Data from the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification shows regular firearm checks skyrocketed in 2020 and are still picking up speed in 2021.

Dr. Salari feared it could be a recipe for disaster as more accessibility could mean more deaths.

“Utah has quite an issue with firearms suicides, so suicides and domestic violence deaths are sort of linked,” said Salari. “So there is a concern these types of things will increase.”

If you or someone you know needs help getting out of an abusive situation, help is available 24-hours a day at the statewide number 1-800-897-LINK (5465).

If you or anyone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, help is available 24-hours a day at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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Three Utahns Killed In Suspected Domestic Violence Incidents