When someone you know and/or love is the victim of a murder, it sucks but you know how to respond. You may be sad, angry, confused and feel a host of other emotions. But how do you react when you know someone who has murdered people?
Things in the news happen to other people
Before I moved back to Stony Brook, New York, I was in Gainesville, Florida. From time to time, I look through the local news down there and may check out the Gainesville Sun. On two occasions this year, I have seen new articles that made me think, I am glad I don’t know those people or something similar. The first time was when I read that a family from the Gainesville area had been killed in a plane crash. A counselor I had seen, Jody Lamont’s family was going to a funeral when they were killed. I still have a hard time accepting that.
Saw a murder in the news and thought, I think I know that guy.
The second time was this week when I read that Kivi Ellis shot and killed his girlfriend, Shelby Mathis, and their three-month-old son, Gideon. I know Kivi, 26. I have met his girlfriend and older children, who were found hiding under a bed. I have met his family. I am not going to claim to have known them all that well but still. Kivi always seems like a decent guy. He certainly didn’t seem like someone who would murder anyone.
While I didn’t see Kivi as a violent person, the signs were clearly there. In 2014, Kivi beat the same woman so badly her liver was cut and she suffered a broken rib as well as other injuries. For this, he was given a year of house arrest and four more of probation. Some people have criticized the judge for not sending him to prison then but from what I can tell, this was Kivi’s first arrest and this country does not take domestic violence as seriously as it should or could.
The problem is that he violated both his community control (house arrest) and probation. While he did complete an inpatient substance abuse treatment program, it doesn’t look like he got the real help he needed to control his anger. That’s one drawback of the criminal justice system. Violating probation and/or community control only gets you more punishment, not better treatment.
After Kivi was arrested in 2014, Shelby’s parents wrote the court and asked them not to revoke a no-contact order. Shelby herself wrote asking for the opposite. This is one of the issues with domestic violence cases. As someone who has experienced this in a different way (parental abuse), I can attest to how hard it can be to go against a person who has hurt you. The rest of my family was less supportive than Shelby’s parents but I am sure they are wondering today what could have been done to prevent this tragedy.
I could go into the statistics showing when women are murdered, the most common culprit is a significant other but I am not going to do that today. All I know today is that someone I know and liked has done something horrible. Two people are dead and the lives of many more have been changed. This is a tragedy for all of us and I am not sure how to feel about anything right now.
I have written about murder on a large scale as in genocide. You can read that here.