Notable factor in Biloxi murder was domestic violence, and it’s more common than you think

Updated: Mar. 3, 2020 at 8:28 AM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - The prevalence of domestic violence was brought to the forefront this weekend when it led to the death of a Biloxi woman.

Jennifer Reis, 40, was found dead Sunday morning inside a home on Popps Ferry Road. Police say her husband Michael Reis flagged down an officer and told them he had shot his wife.

Police say the couple had a history of domestic disturbances, with multiple calls made to the Biloxi home. And sadly, it’s an all too familiar story.

michael reis
michael reis(Harrison County Detention Center)

According to Stacey Riley, CEO of the Gulf Coast Center for Nonviolence, the conditions that led up to the shooting are common.

“We know that one in three females and one in seven males will be affected by domestic violence in their lifetime,” Riley said. “When you are talking about women, that’s a third of our female population. That’s a large number of us. Our Agency serves 2,500 to 3,000 people a year.”

The Gulf Coast Center for Nonviolence offers support and a 24/7 crisis line for victims of...
The Gulf Coast Center for Nonviolence offers support and a 24/7 crisis line for victims of domestic abuse.(John Fitzhugh)

To make those numbers more frightening is the fact that many cases of domestic violence go unreported.

“Domestic violence is one of the most under-reported crimes out there, so we only find the people that find us,” she said. “We only see the people who have an avenue to get out. And not all the people that we see have included the criminal justice system. many people don’t report that to police, many people don’t report it to others.”

Last year, Biloxi Police responded to almost 1,800 domestic disturbance calls.

Riley said domestic violence is a pattern of controlling behavior that leaves the victim trapped until they feel like they have no choice to leave. That is when the situation becomes most dangerous.

Domestic abuse can easily devolve into a violent situation.
Domestic abuse can easily devolve into a violent situation.(John Fitzhugh)

“So whenever that individual leaves that abusive situation, then the perpetrator is out of control, and that’s when something as drastic as homicide can happen,” she said.

The Center has very specific advice for anyone in this situation.

“Leaving and informing the batterer that he or she is leaving is a dangerous thing to do,” Riley said. “We encourage planning, safety planning. Look at resources. Contact our agency to help with the process. And do it in a time when you can get away as safely as possible.”

People in an abusive situation often don’t even see themselves as victims. Riley said she sees a role for friends and family to play in helping and prevention.

“If you see someone that you suspect is in an abusive relationship because sometimes, most of the time, the outsiders, our friends and family and coworkers see it before the individual does, is to offer support. Don’t turn your back on that person. Speak up. And if you know someone who is abusive to their partner, then hold that person accountable. Don’t let it keep going. Don’t close your eyes, don’t turn a light off, don’t ignore it.”

Riley said that statistics show that the murder in Biloxi was a likely outcome from the situation.

“The presence of a gun in a household where domestic violence occurs significantly increases the likelihood that a domestic violence homicide will occur in that relationship,” she said. “We’re talking 500-700 percent more likely that a homicide can occur.”

A red flag law to restrict access to firearms by people considered a danger to themselves or others has been filed in this session in the Mississippi Senate.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit the website by clicking here.

For more information regarding the Gulf Coast Center for Nonviolence, click here. Their crisis hotline is 800-800-1396.

Copyright 2020 WLOX. All rights reserved.