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Kent County domestic violence task force releases recommendations, key findings

Dylan Thebo 1.jpg
Posted at 1:04 PM, Mar 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-24 22:45:13-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A new report from a task force in Kent County says authorities must do more in order to protect domestic violence victims and survivors. 

The review by the Kent County Domestic Violence Community Coordinated Response Team (DVCCRT) comes in response to the murder-suicide of a young boy by his father in Lowell Township last year.

RELATED: Court records reveal husband in the Lowell murder-suicide threatened to kill his wife

According to the report, DVCCRT began looking into the case after the mother of 3-year-old Dylan Thebo, Katlyn Hall, reached out to the task force.

Police say Derek Thebo, her estranged husband, shot and killed their son last fall before he turned the gun on himself.

Dylan Thebo 1.jpg
Police say 3-year-old Dylan Thebo's father shot and killed him at their home in Lowell before taking his own life.

“I’m very hopeful,” said Hall. “If they can implement a policy, if somebody through training is able to see a pattern and recognize lethality factors, then it was all worth it.”

On Thursday, Hall said she approached DVCCRT for help after she had felt like her family had fallen through the cracks.

The report found that since at least April 2020, Hall had tried to report her former partner’s behavior to six entities, including the Kent County Sheriff’s Department and Children’s Protective Services.

Hall moved out of their home, filed for a personal protective order (PPO), and made the court aware of an audio recording in which Thebo threatened to kill their entire family.

However, since nothing rose to criminal misconduct, other, less severe actions were taken.

“Through the PPO, it was said that it was just to try and get a one-up in the divorce, to try and get a hand up in the divorce, so rather than protection from an abuser,” said Hall.

While DVCCRT in its report said Dylan’s death ultimately falls on his father, systemic actors in the county, like police, prosecutors, state officers, and attorneys, need to do better.

The report outlined four recommendations for systemic actors to adopt, although they do not have to according to DVCCRT. Some actions are already being implemented.

They include:

  • Consistent, annual training for systemic actors on domestic violence "lethality factors" and create an evidence-based danger-assessment tool; Increase understanding of the presence of "lethality factors."
  • Stop using mutual restraining orders in lieu of personal protection orders at the onset of divorce proceedings.
  • Continue supervised parenting time until underlying concerns are genuinely addressed.
  • Launch training about secondary trauma and compassion fatigue from domestic violence.

“Domestic violence cases and homicides like this, it is a web of interconnection that often is the result of multiple failures, but I think we come together today because we know and believe that people are willing to dive deep and try to figure out what we can do different,” said Tara Day, DVCCRT co-chair.

Including Dylan’s death, Kent County experienced six domestic violence homicides in a 2.5-month time period last fall.

The three killings in Wyoming since the start of 2022 have also involved a partner or family member dynamic too.

According to the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office, domestic violence cases have increased 10 percent since 2020.

“We can use this as a tool to imagine what are those changes we can make to better set victims and survivors up to attain safety,” said Aday.

If you or someone you know needs help, both organizations have 24/7 help lines.

Call or text (616) 452-6664 to reach Safe Haven Ministries or click hereto chat with an advocate.

To reach the YWCA of West Central Michigan, call or text (616) 454-9922. To talk to an advocate, click here.

You can read the full report from the DVCCRT below:

DVCCRT_Domestic Violence Recommendation Report_March 2022 by WXMI on Scribd