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25 memorialized after losing their lives to domestic violence in Minnesota last year

Sixty-four percent of last year’s victims were shot, compared to approximately 50% in past years, according to Violence Free Minnesota.

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People sit in their cars and hold a moment of silence to commemorate the 25 confirmed victims of intimate partner homicide in 2021, at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, Jan. 25, 2022. Violence Free Minnesota, a state wide coalition of programs working to end relationship abuse hosted its annual Intimate Partner Homicide.
Scott Takushi / St Paul Pioneer Press
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ST. PAUL -- As Heidi Kelley drove in a procession in St. Paul to memorialize 25 victims of domestic violence homicides in Minnesota last year, she cried and thought of her cousin: “She should be here, sitting next to me.”

Kelley’s son’s car bore a large magnet with Sammie “Sosa” Boshey’s photo. Prosecutors have charged Boshey’s husband with fatally shooting the 29-year-old in Eden Prairie last fall.

“I just hope everybody remembers Sammie for her smile and not for what he did to her,” Kelley said Tuesday. “No matter what struggle she went through, she always had that smile.”

Boshey had three young children, who Kelley said she “loved more than anything in the world.” She drove a lime green Dodge Charger, ran a car detailing business, and inspired Kelley’s son to go to school to become a mechanic.

The vehicles that joined in the procession to the Capitol on Tuesday were adorned with the names and photos of people who lost their lives to intimate partner homicide last year, according to Violence Free Minnesota.

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Violence Free Minnesota, which collects information about the circumstances of the cases, will release its annual homicide report on relationship abuse in Minnesota in October. The number of victims from last year likely will grow as the organization learns more about the circumstances of cases.

More victims shot last year

Of last year’s 25 known cases, Violence Free Minnesota says:

  • 20 were allegedly killed by a current or former intimate partner.
  • Five were bystanders who were reportedly killed in domestic violence-related situations.
  • At least 12 victims were Black, Indigenous and/or people of color.
  • At least 21 minors were left without a parent due to intimate partner violence.

There were 30 known victims of intimate violence homicides in 2020. There were an average of 23 domestic violence-related homicides a year between 2015 and 2019, based on Violence Free Minnesota statistics.

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A collage of photos memorializes victims of intimate partner homicide during 2021 in Minnesota.<br/>
Courtesy / Violence Free Minnesota via St. Paul Pioneer Press

Sixty-four percent of last year’s victims were shot, compared to approximately 50% in past years, according to Violence Free Minnesota.

“Accountability for sellers who do not run thorough background checks and effective gun removal policies and practices (in domestic violence cases) could significantly reduce domestic violence related deaths,” Amirthini Keefe, Domestic Abuse Project executive director, said Tuesday. “We know that access to guns makes it five times more likely that the abusive partner will kill their victim.”

Five victims last year were either killed or found in public places, including Cortney Henry, 29, whose former boyfriend is charged with shooting her in a Lakeville day care parking lot in the middle of the night; America Thayer, 55, whose boyfriend is accused of decapitating her at a busy residential intersection in Shakopee; and Marquisha Wiley, 27, who was killed in a shootout at a St. Paul bar that injured 15 others. Police said Wiley was an innocent bystander and didn’t know the suspects; Violence Free Minnesota includes her in its count because the underlying dispute was allegedly over domestic assault.

The first two domestic violence-related homicides of this year in Minnesota happened in St. Paul over the weekend, according to Violence Free Minnesota. A man who’d been in a long-term relationship with Latifa T. Brown, 31, is charged with shooting her, and the husband of Linda Johnson, 66, is accused of fatally beating her.

Pandemic has increased need for help

Violence Free Minnesota has informed elected officials for the past three years “of the growing needs of victims/survivors across the state,” said Katie Kramer, the coalition’s policy director, during a virtual memorial held before the procession.

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“The pandemic has only exacerbated the situation as needs have grown and funding gaps expanded,” she said. “While emergency COVID funds have been able to provide some temporary emergency relief, our advocacy programs report record numbers of people reaching out for services and those who reach out for services are reporting more severe violence, complex family needs and increased mental health issues.”

Kelley said Boshey told her at the end of October that she was getting ready to leave Ryan Rooney, who she’d married in August. Before Boshey was found dead on Nov. 2, Eden Prairie police had responded to another report.

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Sammie “Sosa” Boshey, 29, is seen with her three children.
Courtesy / Heidi Kelley via St. Paul Pioneer Press

On Oct. 19, an anonymous caller from Boshey’s phone reported a male waving a gun around outside of a vehicle. Police found Rooney near a vehicle matching the caller’s description, according to a criminal complaint that later charged him with murder.

“She always looked for the positive in everyone and that’s what, unfortunately, got her killed, but it’s not her fault,” Kelley said. “I don’t know how to make the violence stop, but it needs to.”

For help

The Day One Crisis Hotline operates 24/7 and is available to help people throughout Minnesota with domestic violence. People can call 866-223-1111, text 612-399-9995 or chat at dayoneservices.org.

Related Topics: CRIME AND COURTS
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