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Bozeman Police seeing uptick in strangulation cases, prompting concern over increased homicide risk

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Posted at 5:13 PM, Mar 12, 2024

BOZEMAN — There have been 21 strangulation referrals brought to the Gallatin County Attorney’s Office in 2024, according to County Attorney Audrey Cromwell.

Bozeman Police Detective Captain Dana McNeil says that the department has noticed an uptick in strangulation cases in Bozeman.

“Strangulation can be a real form and demonstration of power and control in a relationship,” McNeil said. “When strangulation occurs in an incident, they are far more likely to be a deadly incident.”

According to the Montana Domestic Violence Fatality Review Commission, out of the thirty intimate partner homicides that occurred between 2019 and 2021, about a quarter of them were caused by strangulation.

In Montana law, strangulation is defined as a person purposely or knowingly impeding on normal breath or circulation of the blood. In 2017, a person’s first strangulation offense became a felony in the state.

Cromwell notes that cases surrounding family violence and domestic abuse can be nuanced and difficult to prosecute.

“I think there are a lot of factors that go into it, such as safety of the victim, whether the defendant is the sole provider of the family, whether the family has children, and so they’re complicated,” Cromwell said.

Executive Director at Haven, Erica Coyle, said that she believes survivors are realizing how incredibly serious strangulation is because of its felony status and the threat it poses to someone’s life.

“If someone has experienced strangulation in their relationship…that is a flag that they are at higher risk of homicide than maybe a survivor who has not experienced that,” Coyle said.

McNeil notes that there is a dedicated team of officers and detectives who are specifically trained to investigate this type of crime, and they meet regularly with groups regarding investigations and high-risk cases.