Seven Murdered in Killing Spree: How Should We Respond?


Guest blog by Susan Halteman

Two weeks ago in Grand Rapids, we watched one man turn our city upside down during a killing spree where he took the lives of seven people, including his wife and child, and then he took his own. His actions left many people asking a lot of questions – among them: what could have caused this? Why would someone do something like this?

Our media has responded with mixed messages. For some, the motive will remain a mystery. For others, mental illness or substance abuse became the answer. But for the thousands of women in our county who are living with fear of their husband or boyfriend every day, another motive is perfectly clear: it was an act of domestic violence, and it happens more than we want to admit.

On average in the United States, three women a day are killed by their husbands or boyfriends. In her lifetime, 1 in 4 women in the U.S. (and 1 in 3 women globally) will experience violent abuse by her boyfriend or husband. In that context, we can begin to see domestic abuse is an appalling human rights violation of epidemic proportion. And yet it remains one of the most underreported and unrecognized of crimes.

So what do we do? How do we respond? As neighbors, friends, families, co-workers, and churches, we can make a powerful statement against domestic abuse if we choose to do so.

Don’t let domestic violence remain a private family matter.

Learn to recognize signs of abuse.

Speak out and name it when it happens.

Recognize that it is a crime; report it like any other.

Hold the abuser accountable; a victim never asks to be abused.

Learn about the best way to help a victim.

Learn where you can refer victims for help.

Here in Grand Rapids, MI, we are fortunate to have two agencies that help victims of domestic abuse. Is there an organization in your area that is serving the needs of abused women and children? Take five minutes to find out. Learn more. You may help save and change the life of someone you know. 

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Thank you, Susan, for correctly labeling the violence that Rodrick Dantzler inflicted upon his seven victims two weeks ago as domestic violence.  I was disappointed that the article in yesterday’s Grand Rapids Press danced around this issue with its emphasis on bipolar disorder.  WOOD-TV 8 had a short three minute report regarding domestic violence as a result of the seven murders. How can we end domestic violence in our community if we don’t even talk about it?


I had commented to WOOD-TV 8 regarding the lack of discussion regarding domestic violence in the news coverage two weeks ago:


There are so many opinions and so much to read and wonder about. I am surprised that the obvious words "power and control" and "domestic violence" have not been mentioned. The law in Michigan defines a person guilty of domestic violence as "an individual who assaults or assaults and batters [murder also applies] his or her spouse ...or former spouse, an individual with whom he or she has or has had a dating relationship, an individual with whom he or she has had a child in common, or a resident or former resident of his or her household." I think that Rodrick Dantzler is the epitome of the definition of domestic abuse. His criminal history proves that he had issues with power and control that resulted in violence from his teenage years to last week Thursday.

The problem is that this type of behavior continues on a daily basis: "On average, more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day." (statistic from Domestic Violence Resource Center Do we have to wait for the deadly reminder that Rodrick Dantzler gave us to think about this issue?? Please support our local agencies like the YWCA and Safe Haven Ministries that deal with domestic violence on a daily basis and are desperately trying to keep women and children safe.

By the way, please do not further victimize the 7 victims in this tragedy by suggesting that they were in any way to blame for Rodrick Dantzler's behavior. No one deserves to be treated that way.

May God comfort the families and friends who have lost loved ones on Thursday and keep those who are presently in danger of similar abuse in safety. 

I noticed that the family of Thomas, Rebecca, and Jennifer Heeren had recognized the true nature of the deaths of their loved ones because they asked that in lieu of flowers, “contributions in their memory may be made to the Carter Thomas Blease Scholarship Fund at Fifth Third Bank or Safe Haven Ministries.”    

Thank you for calling attention to an epidemic that thrives in silence and secrecy. When will the church wake up to see the opportunity for ministry and the healing power of the Lord at work in these devastating situations? My prayer is that the Lord will have mercy on His Church; and that he will open the eyes of those who have the resources in Him, that He has given to bring hope, healing and wholeness. May your Church Lord, choose not to remain silent but to respond with compassion and with justice. Amen, may it be so.

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