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One third of region's murders have domestic link

AMANDA McCOY/SUN HERALD 2012Harrison County officials investigate a triple homicide in Saucier in April 2012, after Marty Saucier shot to death his father, mother and brother at the family's home. Kenny Saucier was 62. Kay Saucier was 54. Matt Saucier was 29. Marty Saucier, now 46, is serving three life terms for murder. Relatives have said his father had kicked him out of the house.
AMANDA McCOY/SUN HERALD 2012Harrison County officials investigate a triple homicide in Saucier in April 2012, after Marty Saucier shot to death his father, mother and brother at the family's home. Kenny Saucier was 62. Kay Saucier was 54. Matt Saucier was 29. Marty Saucier, now 46, is serving three life terms for murder. Relatives have said his father had kicked him out of the house. SUN HERALD

GULFPORT -- At least a third of homicide victims in the three coastal counties in a recent six-year period died in domestic-related shootings.

Of 156 murders reported from 2009 through 2014, 52 people were shot in Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties by a family member or romantic interest, according to a Sun Herald analysis of homicide trends. The killings included three triple homicide-suicides, six double murder-suicides, 14 murder-suicides and 29 other shootings.

Last year alone, six murder-suicides were reported, believed to be the highest ever in a single year in the coastal counties.

It's unclear how many of those slain had filed a domestic-assault complaint before they were killed.

However, the numbers point to concerns nationwide that not all states have laws to restrict access to firearms by domestic abusers.

One woman's killing

The Center for American Progress, an independent nonpartisan policy institute, considers a Jackson woman's killing a prime example for the need for change in Mississippi.

Doris Shavers, 40, was fatally shot by her live-in ex-boyfriend, Henry Lee Phillips, Sept. 17, 2007, as she braided her 12-year-old daughter's hair. He was a felon -- not allowed to have a gun.

Earlier that day, Phillips had pointed a gun at a mentally challenged 12-year-old boy known to call women in the neighborhood his girlfriend. The boy had called Shavers his girlfriend. A relative called police about domestic-violence concerns. Officers confiscated an unregistered gun Phillips said he'd bought off the street, but not his registered gun.

Phillips shot Shavers before police had driven more than a block away. Phillips pleaded guilty to Shavers' murder in Hinds County Circuit Court in 2009. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Mississippi has no laws to stop a domestic abuser or stalker from buying a gun or to require people to surrender their weapons after a felony conviction.

Federal law in place

A recent criminal case in U.S. District Court shows how a federal law is being used to prosecute a 75-year-old Gautier man.

Travis Coy Rayborn is accused of making false statements to buy a firearm May 11 at the Keesler Air Force Base Main Exchange in Biloxi. He was under a domestic-violence protection order with a pending mental-health commitment hearing, a U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman said.

The retired military veteran had been arrested on a third-degree domestic violence charge in December 2014 in Baldwin County, Ala. (The next year, Alabama passed a law that prohibits people from buying a gun if they've been convicted on a misdemeanor domestic assault charge or are under a domestic protection order.)

He was arrested Aug. 29 on a misdemeanor gun charge in Gautier, accused of public drunkenness and displaying a gun in a threatening manner.

He was arrested on the federal charge in October.

Statewide numbers

Certain police reports to the FBI show a total of 85 people in Mississippi were fatally shot by domestic partners from 2006 through 2014. FBI disclaimers said the numbers are only those voluntarily reported and may not include some that law enforcement agencies had coded in ways that don't specify a domestic relationship.

The statewide number indicates 16 domestic killings in Jackson, three in Natchez and three each in Madison and Marion counties.

Only seven are listed in the six southernmost counties: Two each in Harrison County and Gulfport and one each in D'Iberville, Pascagoula and Pearl River County.

Most of the 52 domestic-related killings reviewed by the Sun Herald were committed by a spouse or romantic interest. Some were committed by other family members.

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