The families of a married couple are grieving after a 54-year-old Illinois man shot and killed his 59-year-old partner before turning the weapon on himself over assumptions they both contracted the coronavirus.
In a statement from the Will County Sheriff’s Office on Friday (April 2), police arrived at the home of Patrick Jesernik and Cheryl Schriefer and found the couple dead in separate rooms. Family members who arrived at the scene confirmed Patrick was worried he and his wife contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Cheryl was tested two days prior to her death after she complained about shortness of breath. “The family stated that to their knowledge, she had not received the test result.”
An autopsy report confirmed that Cheryl’s death was a homicide and that she was shot in the back of the head at close range. Patrick died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. They also both tested negative for COVID-19.
Although the couple had little contact with the police over the years and no reports of domestic violence, the sheriff’s office did warn the public about the surge in domestic violence cases. “During the current COVID-19 pandemic, the vast majority of service calls that Deputies have been responding to, involve domestic disputes and crisis intervention calls,” the sheriff’s office said. As other departments are shut down in the wake of the pandemic, the sheriff’s office has urged those in need of order of protection and any other resources to contact Will County Sheriff’s Office Police Social Worker, Bonnie McPhillips at 815-724-1878.
Elsewhere, the numbers continue to rise. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, pointed out how responses to domestic violence cases should be part of the national response to the pandemic.
“For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest — in their own homes,” he said, via NPR. “We know lockdowns and quarantines are essential to suppressing COVID-19, but they can trap women with abusive partners. Over the past weeks, as the economic and social pressures and fear have grown, we have seen a horrifying surge in domestic violence.”
In South Africa, authorities claimed there were close to 90,000 reports of violence against women in the first week of their lockdown. Australia also experienced a 75 percent increase in Google searches related to help for domestic violence victims.
Peace is not just the absence of war. Many women under lockdown for #COVID19 face violence where they should be safest: in their own homes.
Today I appeal for peace in homes around the world.
I urge all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic. pic.twitter.com/PjDUTrMb9v
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) April 6, 2020