Recognize NJ machete murder as domestic violence and save others, group says
New Jersey is still reeling from the news former NYPD officer Arthur Lomando allegedly stabbed his ex-girlfriend, Suzanne Bardzell, to death in her Bergen County driveway Thursday.
But an advocacy group says it's important to recognize the brutal slaying as domestic violence — and to take away lessons that could help save others.
Lomando is accused of using a machete-style knife to murder his ex-girlfriend, Suzanne Bardzell, in Midland Park. He lost both of his legs after jumping in front of a subway car in New York, authorities have said.
In the time since the death, more on Lomando's past has emerged — he had a troubled history with the NYPD that ended in a firing. Lomando's father told Newsday he and Bardzell "fought like cats and dogs" during the three years when they dated on and off.
Officials have told New Jersey Advance Media Lomando violated a restraining order Bardzell had against him — but he wouldn't come out when police in Long Island went to his home to arrest him, and they declined to break in. He was wanted for violating the restraining order approximately four times, but the nature of those cases was not clear, the report said.
Then, on Oct. 10, police reportedly launched a search involving dozens of officers before he eventually turned himself in for processing.
In a statement from the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence, spokesperson Cristina Williams said the case and others "call attention the extreme dangers victims face when leaving an abusive relationship or seeking to maintain safety from abusive partners — it is an especially dangerous time for them."
"A victim in this situation is particularly vulnerable because their abuser is well connected, knows the legal system well, and likely knows about the resources available to victims," she said in the statement. "Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors intended to exert power and control over victims. Abusers who are police officers can exert this control in increased ways."
Not every case is like Lomando's and Bardzell's, with a history of police involvement, Williams said.
"We know that even when there is no documented history of abuse, that it does exist because domestic violence thrives on privacy and most often happens behind closed doors, even in safe,'quiet' communities such as Midland Park," Williams said.
Since October of 2014, there have been approximately 38 reported domestic violence-related deaths throughout New Jersey, she said.
"This is a sad statistic and unacceptable when we know that domestic violence is preventable," she said.
The group advocates several measures: Community members and law enforcement alike should take victims seriously when they disclose violence. High-risk domestic violence response teams should be in place. Show support in a non-judgmental way and help a victim make contact with agencies that can help. Pass "Lisa’s Law,” pending in the Assembly, which establishes a four-year pilot program in Ocean County for the electronic monitoring of high-risk domestic violence offenders — so victims like Bardzell can be alerted when an offender is nearby
"And as community members, we must understand that domestic violence is our business and that it is not a private, personal, or family matter. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, domestic violence is a serious public health crisis that 1 in 4 women will experience in their lifetimes," Williams said.
It's important to think of the incident not just as a murder, but as a domestic violence incident, Williams said.
"We must educate ourselves about the dynamics of abuse so we can finally have answers to these 'senseless' crimes that create shock and grief in our communities because the reality is that no one person or community is immune," she said.
The New Jersey Domestic Violence Hotling is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 800-572-SAFE (7233). A list of programs and services is available at NJCEDV.org.
"We can stop the devastating loss children like Suzanne’s sons will have to endure for a lifetime," Williams said. "We can prevent tragedies such as Suzanne’s murder from ever happening. Let’s end domestic violence in New Jersey."