NewsPinellas County


3 murder-suicides leave 7 dead across Tampa Bay in the past 3 days

Domestic violence agencies see spike in calls
Posted at 6:12 PM, Sep 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-26 18:43:11-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. -- Tampa Bay domestic violence agencies are seeing a spike in calls following three murder-suicides in just the past three days. 

On Wednesday, Clearwater detectives confirmed Jeff Little shot and killed his wife then turned the gun on himself inside a hotel room at the popular Shephard's Beach Resort in Clearwater Beach.

Family members of Jeff and Melissa Little tell ABC Action News they’re devastated. This week, a total of 7 people have died in murder-suicide incidents in Pinellas, Pasco and Manatee Counties.

The crimes are heartbreaking for Lariana Forsythe and Mindy Murphy, the CEOs of two of Pinellas and Hillsborough's largest domestic violence agencies.
“It’s really tragic that it takes a murder-suicide situation to bring light to the issue of domestic violence," Forsythe said.


Both agencies are seeing a spike in phone calls this week from domestic violence victims.  

“Those calls are coming from people who are realizing that what has happened to these three women could happen to them too," Murphy explained.

Domestic violence organizations tell ABC Action News 1 in 4 women are victims of domestic violence and last year law enforcement investigated 28-thousand cases in Tampa Bay alone, a slight increase from the year before. 

“You can say it doesn’t affect you, but the reality is it affects all of us," Murphy added.

Murphy and Forsythe say murder-suicides can have a domino effect. 
On Sunday, James Bennett is accused of shooting his wife Silvana then killing her 16-year-old daughter in Lakewood Ranch. Early Monday morning, Hillsborough County Deputy Kirk Keithley is accused of killing his wife Samantha in their home in Land O’ Lakes. Tuesday evening, hotel workers found Jeff and Melissa Little’s bodies when they didn’t check out of their hotel room. 

“People are often scared to talk about domestic violence because they are embarrassed," Forsythe explained.
Both women are fighting to remove the stigma from domestic violence.
“You will be shocked at how many people come forward when they feel like it’s safe to have that conversation,” Murphy added. She says instead of questioning what takes women so long to leave their abusers, we need to reframe the conversation. She says the emphasis needs to be on getting abusers into intervention programs and telling women it is okay to leave when they feel unsafe. 

"We're told we should give people second chances and work things out, but maybe that's not always the right decision. People need to be vigilant by looking at the signs and questioning 'Is this a safe relationship?'" Forsythe said.
Both organizations hope these crimes are a wake-up call for more victims to come forward for help.