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Advocates against domestic violence offer tips, support after Bozeman murder-suicide

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BOZEMAN, Mont. - The Montana Division of Criminal Investigations is continuing to look into the circumstances surrounding a murder-suicide in Bozeman on Saturday. The case was turned over to them when investigators realized a Bozeman police officer shot his wife then killed himself. Their children were in the home when it happened.

Spokesman Eric Sell tells us the division won't discuss the case until the investigation is finished. When they wrap up the investigation the report will be turned over to Park County officials. Sell said there is no deadline for when that will be complete.

A study by the Violence Policy Center shows murder-suicides are all too common. Their research shows at least 1,500 people are killed by murder-suicides nationwide every year. Their most recent data says that 72 percent of all murder-suicides involve intimate partners. The study also says 94 percent of victims were women killed by their partner.

Erica Coyle, the executive director for Bozeman's domestic violence shelter, Haven, says every year they help around 1,000 people facing domestic violence.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner, and 15 percent of all violent crimes are tied to intimate partner violence.

The coalition says domestic violence hotlines get 15 calls every minute.

Coyle says there are usually signs that domestic violence is happening. Physical signs include bruising or marks on the neck. Those aren't always the case. In some circumstances signs include the need to check in or get permission from their partner. The person may also become more withdrawn or reclusive.

At the beginning of a relationship signs might be blaming a former partner for everything or wanting to move quickly through the relationship. Coyle says rushing into a marriage is sometimes the way abusers gain more power in the relationship.

However red flags may not start to show until later in the relationship.

"In most abusive relationships the abuser will be extremely nice. They may seem like the perfect partner and the ideal person you're looking for months or even years before the abuse can start. At that point you love that person," Coyle said.

Domestic violence support programs are available around the state. They can provide support groups and legal advice. If you choose not to leave an abusive relationship, they can also help come up with a safety plan.

For a listing of statewide programs, click here.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to support the children left behind in this tragedy. Click here to go to the page.

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