\MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- On Jan. 4, James Bloomfield took an extension cord and strangled his wife, Roxanne, in their home in Zumbrota.
Four months later, just hours before he was going to plead guilty, Bloomfield hanged himself in his jail cell.
The Bloomfields thus became one of 11 homicide-suicides in Minnesota so far this year, already the highest total in the past decade.
National statistics aren't collected on this type of crime, but several experts believe Minnesota has a higher than normal rate of homicide-suicides for a state of its population size.
And the jump in this year's numbers has created concern among professors, law enforcement officials and advocates for victims of domestic violence.
In the 1990s, the highest number of homicide-suicides were seven each in 1992, 1995 and 1999. But two years ago, the BCA reported only three cases.
Professor Donna Cohen of the University of South Florida did a study that outlined several characteristics of homicide-suicides. The person who kills usually has psychiatric problems and can't let the victim go. Homicide-suicide rarely involves strangers, and the victim is usually shot.
James A. Fox, a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University in Boston, said many people who kill themselves after a homicide are overwhelmed by guilt and don't want to spend their lives in prison.
Fox and Cohen said 11 cases in a year appear to be a high number for Minnesota, which has a population of 4.7 million. "What's happening in Minnesota? I don't know. The state has a pretty good economy, good social service agencies and good police organizations, but relationships (everywhere) have become more stressful," she said. The most common factor is that the man needs to control the relationship, said Jacquelyn Campbell, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. If a woman tries to leave, the man will often threaten to kill himself, she said.
It's a manipulative move, but medical professionals and family members need to take his words seriously and consider the potential for homicide-suicide, she said.
Victims in such cases are almost always female. The one exception in Minnesota this year happened in Kingston Township in Meeker County, where Brenda Clifford shot her husband, James, and her 7-year-old nephew, Chad Pautzke, before killing herself in April.
It took investigators three months to solve the crime because she set their home on fire as part of a plan to end the increasing pressure in her world. Authorities said there was no evidence of mental illness, physical abuse or an extramarital affair, which are common factors in homicide-suicides.
Central Minnesota has seen an increase in homicide-suicides in the past several years, said Cathy Hartle, executive director of Hands of Hope Resource Center, which serves Todd and Morrison counties. Brian Helt shot his wife, Katherine, before setting fire to his house in Browerville in May. A month earlier, Ivan Watkins shot his partner, Alberta Johnson, in Cold Spring.
Hartle said the isolation of rural living is a significant barrier facing somebody dealing with domestic violence.
"There is also a strong sense of wanting to take care of your own problems," she said. "In a smaller town, you may not go for help because you don't want everybody knowing your business."
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