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Following Cedar Rapids woman’s death, local advocates say domestic abuse victims need more support

Published: Feb. 26, 2021 at 11:16 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - After police said a man killed his wife Saturday morning, we looked at the seemingly intractable problem of domestic violence.

Police said Katrina Brinson died after her husband stabbed her to death at the Rodeway Inn on the Southwest side of Cedar Rapids. She was the mother of six children. Police killed her husband, Arnell States. They said he was running from the crime scene threatened an officer.

“The justice system failed my daughter,” said Barbra Brinson, Katrina’s mother.

Barbra said her daughter was scared her husband would hurt her. The two had a violent history, and Cedar Rapids Police arrested them both for domestic abuse the day before Brinson died. However, County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden said police couldn’t determine whose fault it was. They were then both released from the Linn County Jail.

“She didn’t want to go home because she didn’t want to be around him,” said Barbra. “She feared for her life.”

We asked Vander Sanden why prosecutors didn’t press charges in the original domestic assault arrests. He said Arnell States was the one who called the police after running into his kid’s room in hopes that Katrina wouldn’t fight in front of them. Katrina told police at first that there had never been physical violence. She back-tracked and said prior disagreements had gotten physical. In the end, Vander Sanden said there wasn’t sufficient evidence to charge either of them with anything. He said the officer couldn’t determine whose story was true.

“When the victim gets arrested it can be a deterrent for them to possibly reach out again,” said Waypoint Services Domestic Abuse Program Coordinator Alexis Chadwick. “They might only reach out if it was a lethal situation, it might not be every time. They would be fearful of getting arrested or not taken seriously.”

Chadwick said her office receives about 3,500 calls a year for someone in an abusive relationship. She said it was common for victims to feel their abuser was getting out of jail too early. She said it might be a day or even a few hours. The pandemic has only made it worse.

“It seems like it’s not uncommon for a person to get arrested, either one person or two people to get arrested, and then get released the next day or within a short amount,” she said. “That happened pre-COVID-19, now it seems like that’s happening even more.”

Chadwick said there needed to be a big change in the domestic abuse system, which was currently built to help after something terrible has happened. Prevention was more difficult, but an area of opportunity.

“I wish there could be more focus on what could have been put in place to prevent, in this situation, him from killing her,” said Chadwick. What could’ve been done differently? What interventions could’ve been put in place for him?”

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