Experienced law enforcement officials know that some domestic batterers display behavioral patterns indicating an increased capacity for murder. Jared W. Remy, who is accused in last week’s murder of girlfriend Jennifer Martel, would appear to fit that profile. Yet Middlesex DA Marian Ryan’s office either missed those cues or underestimated them. Ryan’s defense of her office’s actions is unpersuasive, though she wisely expresses a willingness to probe further.
Remy was arrested last Tuesday after Martel called 911 and told Waltham police that he had grabbed her by the neck and slammed her into a mirror. Remy, who is the son of Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy, was released without bail following arraignment on Wednesday morning. On Thursday, the 34-year-old Remy allegedly stabbed and killed Martel in the home they shared with their 4-year-old daughter.
Domestic violence cases pose tough challenges for law enforcement. Martel, for example, reportedly did not appear at Remy’s arraignment or urge prosecutors to renew a restraining order against him. Yet it is a mistake to equate such reticence with the belief that the danger has passed. The coercive control exercised by batterers is often so great that victims refuse to appear in court. This is part of the reason why state law grants prosecutors leeway to request a dangerousness hearing as a means to detain the alleged perpetrator and protect the victim while a judge determines the likelihood of future violence. The failure of prosecutors to request such a hearing or at least request high bail at arraignment hangs over this case.
A Middlesex spokeswoman said that the DA’s office employs a high-risk assessment tool in domestic violence cases. But she would not say if it was used in the Martel case. Red flags were everywhere. Remy had been charged with assaulting and threatening to kill a former girlfriend, a key indicator of domestic homicide. Remy had an erratic employment history. And he has a lengthy court record, including risk factors such as multiple assault cases and possession of a hypodermic needle. Domestic violence perpetrators also are known to escalate when their partners are trying to better themselves or extricate themselves from the relationship. According to relatives, Martel had been trying to “escape’’ from Remy and was taking online courses in the hope of becoming a teacher.
Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office wants to review the state’s domestic violence laws in light of this tragedy. But part of the inquiry should be to determine if the Middlesex DA’s office made proper use of the current laws.