COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX) — After a drop in homicides last year by nearly a third, Columbus now seeing a jump in homicides.
So far this year, Columbus police say they have investigated 34 homicides in 2023, compared to 26 homicides for the same time period in 2022.
Twenty percent of this year's homicides are connected to domestic violence, according to Columbus police.
"Domestic violence is a vicious cycle," said Dr. Maria Houston-Beck, Executive Director of "Choices for Victims Of Domestic Violence," a community organization that offers confidential housing and a toll-free 24-hour crisis line for people to call.
"They can call and ask for resources, or they need someone to talk to," said Houston-Beck. "There's a great need for those that are fleeing domestic violence situations and needing a safer place to go."
The help is needed now more than ever as Columbus is seeing a spike in homicides connected to domestic violence victims.
Columbus police say Renee Benedetti, 40, was the sixth person in the city this year to lose her life to domestic violence.
"The day she disappeared, she posted online a lovey-dovey photo. I don't get it," said Bryce Hudgel, a long-time friend of Benedetti who was a mother of three. She was reported missing last month.
Benedetti's boyfriend, Gene Scott, 46, is now charged with choking Benedetti in their Clintonville home in January and then dumping her body in a southern Ohio landfill.
"She seemed like she was really happy with him. Each time I talked to her, she said she was happy," said Hudgel. "I didn't expect anything like this."
So far this year, Columbus police say they've investigated six homicides linked to domestic violence.
Compare that to last year when police investigated seven homicides connected to domestic violence for the entire year of 2022.
Houston-Beck told ABC 6/FOX 28 that while she cannot pinpoint an exact reason why the city is seeing such a dramatic increase in homicides linked to domestic violence, she says COVID, housing availability, and the spike in violence may be playing a role.
She says there are signs to look for in an abusive relationship.
"At times, it may not appear that they are being physically abused, but maybe they are being manipulated or they are being isolated or controlled," said Houston-Beck.
Red flags that Hudgel says he wishes he recognized in his friend's relationship.
"I just wish there was more I could do," said Hudgel. "I mean, I miss her. She didn't deserve it."
For more information about CHOICES and how you can reach its 24/7 crisis hotline, click here.