Greensboro police supervisor weighs in on domestic violence amid national attention over Gabby Petito case

Piedmont Triad News

GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — The death of 22-year-old Gabby Petito has drawn national attention surrounding domestic violence.

On Tuesday, the coroner of Teton County, Wyoming, where Petito’s body was found, released new details in her cause of death. It was deemed strangulation and ruled a homicide.

She had been on a cross-country road trip with her fiancé Brian Laundrie. He returned but she did not. Her body was found a couple of weeks after she was reported missing.

Laundrie remains the only person of interest in her death and is still missing.

Many questioned whether the tragedy was a case of domestic violence.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

It’s a behavior that’s taken hundreds of lives across the Triad.

In June, 19-year-old High Point University student Gianna Delgado was murdered. Her boyfriend Michael Cadogan is accused of killing her and driving to Tennessee to dispose of her body. Court documents alleged he admitted to a friend he strangled her to death during an argument.

The Greensboro Police Family Victim’s Unit and the Guilford County Family Justice Center work to prevent the rise in domestic violence.

“Domestic violence is a cycle,” said Sgt. Dale Nix, supervisor of the Greensboro Police Family Victims Unit. “It’s a learned behavior.”

Nix investigates these types of assaults. He told FOX8 strangulation is often the last red flag before domestic violence escalates to murder.

He said strangulation is one of the most vulnerable attacks to a person’s body.

“This is not the use of a weapon, this is not the use of some kind of blunt force trauma where there is something in between the offender and the victim,” he said. “This is an intimate assault.”

According to Greensboro police, there have been 2,366 domestic violence cases reported so far this year.

During the height of the pandemic, there were 3,442 cases in 2020 compared to 2,968 cases in 2019 and 2,711 cases in 2018.

Officers have reported 387 strangulations at initial report since January 2018 until now.

“It only takes 10 seconds to render someone unconscious,” Nix said. “If they continue to add that pressure after that 10 seconds then basically the body starts to shut down.”

Nix told FOX8 it’s a behavior he’s seen in couples from all types of backgrounds.

“Our survivors will say is that the offender was trying to stop them from screaming,” he said. “They were trying to stop them from communicating. They were trying to stop them from gaining help.”

A lot of times family and friends try to step in to help victims.

“You support those individuals, you give them the resources they need, you make them aware of the other avenues they might be able to take,” he said. “Just be supportive because if you try to browbeat or try to coarse them into getting help, they’re going to be resistive.”

Help is available at the Guilford County Family Justice Center.

“Whether it be advocates, attorneys, medical, police, detectives, our Family Justice Center navigators,” Nix said. “We all come together as a team to support this victim and try to figure out the best way to move forward.”

Family Justice Center staff walk survivors through the legal process and help them heal. They also hold offenders accountable for their actions.

There is a center located in Greensboro at 201 S. Greene St. and in High Point at 505 E. Green Dr. Walk-ins and appointment hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

There is also the Family Service of the Piedmont 24-hour Crisis Hotline at (336) 273-7273.

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