- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A spree of violence over the last two weeks of the year left nine people dead in the District, increasing the number of killings in 2014 over the previous year.

The city finished the year with 105 homicides, one more than was recorded in 2013 — a year that included 12 people killed in a mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard.

Homicide totals were up slightly in two major surrounding jurisdictions as well, with Montgomery County and Fairfax County reporting upticks.

Prince George’s County police recorded 54 homicides in 2014 compared to 56 homicides in 2013, police spokesman Lt. William Alexander said. While this year’s total includes homicides that took place in municipalities within the county, it was unclear whether homicides investigated by two separate municipal agencies — Laurel and Greenbelt, which have their own homicide detectives — were included in the total.

In the District, a spate of killings in the last few days of the year included four fatal shootings and a police-involved shooting on Christmas Eve and a double shooting days later that killed a 71-year-old man and his adult son.

Prince George’s County saw the second highest number of homicides in the region — with the tally including a cab driver found dead inside his taxi cab Wednesday morning.

SEE ALSO: 2 shot, 1 fatally, after reportedly pulling guns on D.C. police officers

Law enforcement officials in the District, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties have all pointed to domestic-related incidents as a significant factor in the number of homicides reported in their jurisdictions.

The Metropolitan Police Department declined to make anyone available to discuss trends in the year’s homicides this week, but during a spate of violence midway through the year Chief Cathy L. Lanier pointed out a spike in domestic killings.

“Domestic violence is our biggest challenge in terms of homicides,” Chief Lanier said at the time.

At that point, in July, homicides in the District were up by more than half with more women killed in the first six months of the year than the total for all of 2013.

Montgomery County police have made arrests or otherwise closed 17 of the 18 homicides that occurred in the county this year. A 19th death, involving an off-duty police officer who fatally shot his adult son as the man stabbed the officer’s wife, was ruled a justifiable homicide. Capt. Paul Starks, a police spokesman, said in most of the homicide cases this year the victims knew their attackers in some form, be they family members, romantically involved or acquaintances.

“It’s who you hang out with, and that’s not necessarily putting it on the victim. But who we have around us are the people who have the opportunity to hurt us,” Capt. Starks said. “It’s not necessarily a crime issue or a quality of life issue. It’s certainly very hard for any law enforcement entity to prevent by law enforcement strategies or legislation.”

The only unsolved homicide in the county is the February killing of 65-year-old Philip Welsh, who was found beaten to death inside his Silver Spring home.

The slayings included the deaths of two toddlers, who police said were killed by their mother as she tried to conduct an exorcism, and more recently an organ transplant survivor who is believed to have been killed by his ex-girlfriend.

Montgomery County had nine homicides last year.

In Prince George’s County, officials expressed similar concerns over domestic-related killings.

“These are really tough cases to prevent,” Lt. Alexander said. “One of the things we’re focused on is using the domestic violence unit to help detect domestic violence victims and find ways for them to get help.”

Homicides numbers in Virginia jurisdictions, which typically see fewer killings, remained low.

Fairfax County reported 10 homicides in 2014 compared to eight in 2013 — which was the lowest number recorded since 1985.

Alexandria had four homicides in 2014, including the slaying of music teacher Ruthanne Lodato. Police later arrested Charles Severance in connection with the crime and have subsequently charged him with two other homicides — the 2013 killing of transportation planner Ronald Kirby and the 2003 killing of Nancy Dunning.

Police have made arrests in three of the four cases, Alexandria police spokeswoman Crystal Nosal said.

Arlington County recorded one murder-suicide this year, an incident in which a man killed his girlfriend. Arlington had no homicides in 2013.

Note: Due to incorrect information provided by the Metropolitan Police Department, an earlier version of this story said the District finished 2014 with 106 homicides. The error has been fixed.

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