COVID-19 likely contributing to recent fatal domestic violence

COVID-19 era brings unsettling trend of domestic violence

BOSTON — In recent weeks, eastern Massachusetts has endured a disturbing series of tragic deaths.

From just before Thanksgiving, when a 41-year-old man shot and killed his 68-year-old mother before turning the gun on himself in Wayland, to just this week in East Bridgewater, where a 42-year-old man allegedly beat his 70-year-old father to death with a dumbbell, the cases of family homicide have been frequent and horrific.

Three of the cases took place in Plymouth County, where District Attorney Tim Cruz took notice.

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“I can’t tell you when we’ve had three like this in the last couple of months. Especially a very clustered amount of terrible events that have occurred,” Cruz said on Tuesday.

So, what is happening?

COVID-19 is widely seen as a major contributing factor.

“Clearly the pandemic has something to do with it,” Northeastern University Criminologist James Alan Fox told me.

“One of the reasons we see homicides spike this year is the amount of time people are spending together, time when they are not working, or going to school or involved in structured activity,” Fox said.

But there is more.

Four of the recent cases involve adult children accused of killing their parents.

In Middleboro, 21-year-old Ryan True is charged with stabbing to death his mother and father in their home just before Christmas.

In January, 23-year-old Timothy Martin is accused of killing his 61-year-old mother in the basement of her Wakefield home.

James Fox is studying parricide, the murder of parents.

Looking at numbers going back to 1976, Fox says the number of recent cases is unusually high.

“What you are seeing here are adult children who are older than 20, 21, often times much older. The stresses and conflicts that they may have with their family, with their parents, has extended for years. Perhaps reaching the boiling point, perhaps part of that is being influenced by the stresses and strains of COVID-19,” Fox said.

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