“No one’s going to carry her silhouette but me,” said Debbie Ham, the mother of 22-year-old Devin Ham, killed by her husband last year in Florence County.
Debbie Ham was one of some 250 people Tuesday at the State House on the one day each year when South Carolina acknowledges its sad, dark side – the horrific number of men and women killed by their partners each year. Last year, 39 women and 13 men were killed for a total of 52 victims – a record.
Life-sized silhouettes of each victim were carried before the crowd as S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson read the names and gave a brief narrative of the crime. A bell in the note of G chimed after each name.
In 2011, Richland County had more men and women killed by their partners than any other county: seven.
“The monetary and psychological toll to this state is horrendous,” said Laura Hudson, executive vice president of the S.C. Crime Victims’ Council.
In last year’s killings, 81 children lost one or more parents – often seeing a mother or father shot or stabbed to death before their eyes, according to figures of the S.C. Attorney General’s Office.
Also, while slaying 52 partners, the killers also executed four children and two other relatives. And in Laurens County, deputy Roger Rice was shot and killed while trying to help a domestic violence victim.
Of the 52 killers, 11 committed suicide at the scene. Three other assailants committed what is known as “suicide by cop” – pointing a weapon at police so an officer could kill them.
Wilson said he looks “forward to the day when I don’t have” any names to read, because that will be a day when no one has been killed in a relationship.
Columbia College’s Hi C’s women’s choir sang a haunting song that brought tears to many eyes, with the words, “No time to tarry here, for I’m on my journey home. ... Sisters all, fare ye well, for I’m on my journey.” Bagpiper William DuBose III closed out the ceremony with “Amazing Grace.”
The brutal side of the state’s domestic relationships have been in the news lately.
Last week, annual figures released by the national Violence Policy Center said South Carolina was the No. 2 state in the nation last year in the rate at which women were killed by men.
Monday, a man in Columbia’s Rosewood neighborhood killed the woman he was living with and then committed suicide.
This morning, Columbia officials and anti-domestic violence advocates will meet to discuss ways to counter domestic violence.
Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344.