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Valentine's Day: Does 'V' Stand for Domestic Violence?

Cathy McNaughton

Valentine's Day: Does 'V' Stand for Domestic Violence?
Alec and Cathy McNaughton (Personal Photo)

(CBS) On Valentine's Day weekend in 2009, Alec McNaughton and his wife Cathy celebrated their love for each other over breakfast. They exchanged sentimental cards at their home in Sharpsburg, Ga., not far from Atlanta. They expressed their appreciation for each other in handwritten notes in those cards. They even exchanged chocolates. And then, within hours, police say, McNaughton stabbed Cathy at least 31 times, ending her life.

The crime was shocking but the fact that it occurred around a holiday was not. In fact, police and domestic violence experts around the country have said time and again that holidays can sometimes bring out the worst in partners and that violence increases during holiday periods which are also times of stress and disagreement. Valentine's Day is no exception.

"Families are together a lot more, issues can be brought up face to face," Memphis Police Lt. William Freed told The Commercial Appeal in December. "Alcohol is involved in a lot of celebrations and sometimes that gets out of hand. We see it all holidays - even Valentine's Day."

The evidence is anecdotal but it seems when couples focus on their relationships around Valentine's Day, the outcome can be deadly. Consider the evidence:

  • In 2001, Dr. John Hamilton, an obstetrician and gynecologist in Oklahoma, ordered an expensive array of red orchids for his wife but, before they were delivered, he bludgeoned her to death.

  • In 2007, Nathanael Plourde made arrangements to exchange Valentine's Day presents with his pregnant girlfriend Roxanne Fernando in Winnipeg, Canada. Instead, Plourde and another man drove Roxanne to a remote park in the middle of winter where they beat her on the head with a wrench before tying her up and burying her in the snow.

  • In 2009, Debra Aquilina was convicted of intentionally causing her husband of six months to overdose on heroin on Valentine's Day so she could inherit the title to his house.

  • In 2009, James Carter II stabbed his ex-girlfriend Tina Notice to death on Valentine's Day in Plainville,Connecticut, according to police. The murder occurred just hours after Notice had gone to the police for help after receiving emails she thought were sent by Carter. At the time, she had a restraining order against him.

  • In 2010, Stacey Schoeck arranged to meet her husband Richard in a park in Snellville, Georgia, so the couple could exchange Valentine's Day cards before Stacey hurried back to take care of her grandparents. When she arrived at the meeting spot, she found Richard shot to death. She now stands accused of conspiring to commit the murder along with two others.

  • In 2010, K'Lynn Low, of Euless, Texas, wrote on her Facebook page that she was having trouble with her boyfriend Jeffrey Meekins. On Valentine's Day, the 31-year-old nurse and her 34-year-old boyfriend were found dead in the couple's apartment. Through forensics, police determined that Meekins shot Low in the head and then killed himself.

Taking note of all the violence on this particular day, the National Museum of Crime and Punishment in Washington D.C. even featured an exhibit called "Crimes of Passion."

According to the museum's website: "Upon entering the museum, our on-staff wardens will bind couples together and lead them on their way to tour the three floors of the museum. As they view over 600 exhibits regularly featured at the museum, they will also enjoy special exhibit boards placed throughout explaining various crimes of passion, many of which took place in the D.C. metropolitan area..."

"The cost is $30.00 per couple and includes a pair of souvenir handcuffs."

For information on dealing with domestic violence, please visit The National Domestic Violence Hotline.

  • Paul LaRosa

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