Partner homicide-suicide involving female homicide victims: a population-based study in North Carolina, 1988-1992

Violence Vict. 1998 Summer;13(2):91-106.


Homicide-suicide is a form of fatal violence in which an individual commits homicide and subsequently kills him- or herself. One hundred and sixteen homicide-suicide events involving 119 female homicide victims in North Carolina from 1988-1992 were identified through state medical examiner files. Case files were reviewed retrospectively to identify event characteristics, precursors, and typologies. In 86% of cases the perpetrator was the current or former partner of the victim. During the study period, 24% of men who killed their female partners in North Carolina subsequently committed suicide and another 3% attempted suicide but survived. Victim separation from the perpetrator was the most prevalent precursor (41%), followed by a history of domestic violence (29%). In nearly half of the cases with a history of domestic violence, the victim had previously sought protection from the perpetrator in the form of an arrest warrant, restraining order, or intervention by a law enforcement officer. Children of the victim (and/or perpetrator) witnessed the homicide-suicide, were in the immediate vicinity, found their parents' bodies, or were killed, in 43% of cases. The prevalence of separation and domestic violence suggests several potential points of intervention, including stronger domestic violence legislation. Future research should place priority on assessing the impact of partner homicide-suicides on the families in which they occur. Such studies are essential for the informed development of preventive and therapeutic interventions for the families of both the victims and perpetrators of these fatal events. In addition, research focused on assisting men in coping with issues of control and separation is needed.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Black or African American
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Crime Victims*
  • Data Collection
  • Divorce
  • Domestic Violence
  • Education
  • Female
  • Homicide*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marital Status
  • Middle Aged
  • North Carolina
  • Occupations
  • Research
  • Spouses
  • Suicide*
  • Suicide, Attempted
  • White People
  • Women*