2023 was the worst year for murder-suicides in York County history: coroner

York County saw the highest number of murder-suicides in 2023 than in its past, York County Coroner Pam Gay said.

Police and the coroner's office have investigated six murder-suicides in 2023. Two of those cases happened within 24 hours.

"I don't know any year that has been worse," Gay said.

Gay talked in general about why communities see murder-suicides. Sometimes a partner wants out of a relationship. Victims might have obtained a protection from abuse order, and disagreements over the custody of children might arise. With older couples, one or both might be struggling with illness.

"Sometimes ... even their family and friends don't even know it's as bad as it is," Gay said.

The deaths impact so many lives, Gay said.

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Murder-suicides in York County

Jan. 25, 2023: Parents James Daub, 62, and Deborah Daub, 59, were murdered and their 26-year-old daughter, Morgan, died by suicide. The three were found dead outside of their home in West Manchester Township. A police investigation uncovered documents that showed the family had planned their deaths. In a letter, Deborah Daub wrote about evil that has been mounted against the family but did not explain further. Police said Deborah Daub killed her husband, James, and Morgan fatally shot her mother before taking her own life.

April 8, 2023: Ronald Kinard, 85, shot his 81-year-old wife, Grace, and then killed himself at their home in Hellam Township. "It's a very sad situation," Hellam Township Police Chief Doug Pollock said at the time. It appeared the husband had the beginning onset of dementia, and his wife was developing advanced health problems. The family was talking to the couple about moving into a retirement community or a nursing home.

July 23, 2023: Steve Bowersox fatally shot his wife, 55-year-old Brenda Bowersox, when she arrived at a residence in Springettsbury Township. When police officers arrived at the scene, the 60-year-old husband turned the gun on himself. He died later at WellSpan York Hospital. Brenda Bowersox had applied for a protection from abuse order, saying he had threatened her over the years, but a judge denied the final order.

Sept. 12, 2023: David Rehbein, 69, fatally shot his wife, 60-year-old April Rehbein, at their home in Codorus Township and then took his own life. The couple had an argument before they were found deceased. April Rehbein had served as secretary of the township.

Sept. 13, 2023: Megan Saunders, 29, was fatally shot by 31-year-old Devon Elias at her Dover Township home. He took his own life after being involved in a six-hour standoff with police. Saunders and Elias shared a child together. Saunders had a protection from abuse order against Elias in Baltimore County, Md., police said in a news release. The two had a hearing in Maryland the day of the murder-suicide.

Dec. 28, 2023: Guadalupe Morales, 49, and Dylan Arvizu-Morales, 17, died in a stabbing in Hanover. The mother died of sharped forced injuries to the head and neck, and her son died of blunt and sharp force injuries of the head and neck. Authorities allege Rogelio Arvizu killed his wife and son and then took his own life. He was pronounced dead at WellSpan York Hospital.

Murder-suicides nationally

The Violence Policy Center, a nonprofit national educational organization that works to prevent gun deaths and injuries, says that nearly 11 murder-suicides occur weekly across the country, according to a news release. It is based on a six-month study of cases in 2019. The results were released in 2020.

The study reported 280 murder-suicides in the six month period, and 620 people died, the release states. Eighty-nine percent of the cases involved a firearm.

Most of the murders were committed by men, and most of the victims were women, the release states. Most of the cases involve intimate partners.

In the six month study, 51 of the murder victims were children and teens, the release states. Others witnessed some part of the violence.

The organization notes that no national database exists to track murder-suicides, but it believes that one should be created to better understand the phenomenon and develop prevention strategies, the study states.

Prevention strategies

It also recommended:

  • "Stronger domestic violence prevention legislation and the establishment of state domestic violence task forces."

  • "Restricting access to firearms where there is an increased risk of a murder-suicide; for example, where an individual has a history of domestic violence and/or has threatened suicide."

  • "Aggressive enforcement of laws that prohibit individuals with a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction or who are the subject of a protective order for domestic violence from purchasing or possessing a firearm."

This article originally appeared on York Daily Record: 2023 worst year for murder-suicides in York County PA history