Confessed murderer Ben Berwick is serving an 18-year-jail sentence for the brutal 2009 killing of his estranged wife in St. Johnsbury. Family of Anna Berwick said her husband was physically abusive and murdered her when she decided to leave. It's a violent trend that's got domestic violence advocates and police in some parts of the state partnering to change.
Domestics are always volatile, they're always unpredictable," said Brandon Police Chief Christopher Brickell.
Police in five Rutland County communities are testing a tool called the Lethality Assessment Program. It's an eleven question survey that helps police to quickly assess a victim's level of danger. If he or she meets the high risk criteria, police can immediately put them in contact with an advocate.
"This screening tool is really an evidence-based tool which is a lot better than leaving it up to each officer's discretion. Now we go through the checklist if they meet the criteria we connect them with services right away," Chief Brickell said.
Only 4 percent of domestic violence homicide victims will have contact with an advocate before they're killed. Yet more than 50 percent will have had contact with police.
"So they're really in the best position to make the connection between our services and the victims before something terrible happens," said Jennifer Firpo with Rutland County Women's Network and Shelter.
Police said the survey brings consistency to domestic violence calls. The three most telling questions a victim will be asked -- Do you think your abuser might try to kill you? Has your abuser ever used a weapon against you or threatened to kill you or your children? A "yes" response triggers a three-way conversation on the scene between the victim, police and an advocate. Experts said this type of intervention is far more effective than leaving a victim with a crisis hotline number.
"And really allows the victim to understand the seriousness of their situation and their need for immediate help and a safety plan," said Marianne Kennedy with Rutland County Women's Network and Shelter.
Police in Rutland, Brandon, Fairhaven and Castleton will test the program for the next three months. Advocates hope state police will eventually adopt the program. Barre City has been using the same assessment system for about a year and police said many more victims are taking advantage of services because of the program.
Saturday, March 8 2014 10:21 AM EST2014-03-08 15:21:27 GMT
Two firefighters are recovering from minor injuries. They were injured while fighting a at the Bennett Farm on Route 15 on the Johnson-Cambridge town line. The fire started in a shed around 7:30 FridayMore >>
Two firefighters are recovering from minor injuries.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 10:20 AM EST2014-03-08 15:20:42 GMT
Friends are rallying around families who lost everything in an apartment building fire in St. Johnsbury. They immediately took to Facebook after hearing about this fire and started planning to collectMore >>
Friends are rallying around families who lost everything in an apartment building fire in St. Johnsbury.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 10:20 AM EST2014-03-08 15:20:05 GMT
Reporter: "What are some of the most common burn injuries that we see with kids coming into the hospital?" Jim Esdon, Dartmouth Hitchcock Injury Prevention Center: "This time of year, the glass frontedMore >>
We've had another cold week that's left homeowners cranking the heat. But what does that mean for kids' safety?More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 10:19 AM EST2014-03-08 15:19:21 GMT
Armed with just two L rods, 87-year-old John Wayne Blassingame starts looking for water by asking yes or no questions. "Does it go past 20 feet, does it go past 30 feet, yah," he says. The rods crossingMore >>
A national organization based in Danville says it is providing resources to people in desperate need to find water.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 8:31 AM EST2014-03-08 13:31:36 GMT
The Governor is traveling to Rhode Island Saturday. His office says Governor Peter Shumlin will be at Brown University in Providence taking part in a forum with the Rhode Island Governor. While theMore >>
The Governor is traveling to Rhode Island Saturday. More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 8:17 AM EST2014-03-08 13:17:30 GMT
We have some ideas for your Saturday. IRISH FESTIVAL The 19th annual Burlington Irish Heritage Festival kicks off today. There is a lecture about the role of Irish immigrants in the Civil War at theMore >>
Friday, March 7 2014 7:28 PM EST2014-03-08 00:28:44 GMT
Williston Police say, the powder was from a generic prescription medication. They say, the man was from Burlington and had the paperwork in his pocket with his medicine and that's how it got on there. More >>
Williston Police say, the powder was from a generic prescription medication. They say, the man was from Burlington and had the paperwork in his pocket with his medicine and that's how it got on there.More >>