Sunday Martinsville homicide could be example of growing national trend

Domestic violence expert says intimate partner, family violence increasing

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Martinsville police say 31-year-old Katelia Beal fatally stabbed her boyfriend, 29-year-old Michael Lightfoot, in the chest around 4 a.m. Sunday at their apartment on Blankenship Road after getting into an argument.

Beal is charged with second-degree murder.

Police say there is no history of domestic-related calls between Beal and Lightfoot, but neighbors tell investigators that they have heard "disturbances" coming from the apartment.

"The first thing is to let someone know," said Southside Survivor Response Center Domestic Violence Advocate Jeanne Hodges, when asked what to do if you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship.

She says any time you suspect someone may be in an abusive relationship, tell someone, especially if you know the person you suspect of being in the abusive relationship.

"First and foremost, if you're a friend or family member of that person," Hodges said, "be empathetic. Listen to their situation."

Hodges said intimate partner domestic violence is on the rise nationwide.

"We are seeing more intimate-partner violence, whether it be female or male," Hodges said. "(We're) also seeing an increase in familial domestic violence as our population seems to age, our baby boomers start to age, we have more adult children that are living at home with their parents and are serving as caretakers." 

According to the latest data from the state attorney general's office, in 2015 there were 55 intimate-partner homicides.

That number increased at least 2 percent a year since 2011.

There were 20 family domestic violence homicides in 2015, down from the peak of 24 in 2012.

As of Monday, it was unclear if there was any domestic violence between Beal and Lightfoot prior to the stabbing.

Hodges said there are signs to look for, though, that can indicate that someone is in an abusive relationship.

"Any time someone's in a relationship where they feel that the individual is trying to dictate their behavior," Hodges said. "If they demonstrate any possessiveness or ownership over that individual, blame you for their problems or their behaviors."

Police say Beal is cooperating with the investigation.