COLUMBIA — They died by knife and fist and gun. Two were beaten to death with a baseball bat. One died from general abuse and neglect.
Most bodies were discovered right away; others were buried in the woods.
They were the 48 South Carolina victims of criminal domestic violence in 2012, whose names were read aloud Tuesday by state Attorney General Alan Wilson in the state’s annual Day of Remembrance.
It was names like those that have recently gained South Carolina national recognition.
“South Carolina is now ranked No. 1 in the rate of men killing women, based on 2011 data,” Wilson told the crowd of more than 200 gathered at the rear of the Statehouse grounds.
“Let’s take something like that, that is frustrating and upsetting, and let’s turn it into a battle cry of change,” Wilson said.
Of the 48 victims from last year, 22 percent came from Lexington and Richland counties. Six victims were from Wilson’s home county of Lexington, and five came from Richland County.
Thirty-nine domestic violence victims were female; nine were male.
“I kept reading Lexington, Lexington, Lexington – it was very disheartening,” Wilson said later in an interview. “We can do better.”
Asked why Lexington, a highly conservative and religious county, has so many domestic violence cases, Wilson said, “I don’t think politics or religion have anything to do with it. I think a lot of it is socio-economic – the lack of resources and education in certain areas. No matter if it’s Lexington or any of the other 45 counties, we can do better.”
The victims from Richland County included the highly publicized slayings of Tammy Jo Parker, shot by her husband, Brett Parker; and Almanita Smith, killed by her live-in boyfriend, who let her body decompose for days before dumping it in the front yard of her house.
State officials in attendance were Reps. Bakari Sellers, D-Bamberg, and Eddie Tallon, R-Spartanburg; Sens. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, and Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington; state education Superintendent Mick Zais and Secretary of State Mark Hammond.
State Department of Corrections interim director Bryan Stirling, a former lawyer who worked criminal domestic violence cases in the Attorney General’s office, also was there.
“Why do we have to be No. 1 in this kind of thing?” Laura Hudson, executive director of the S.C. Crime Victims Council, said in an interview. “I can only blame our culture of violence in this state. It’s just not a good thing to be known for this, and I thank the attorney general for calling this to everybody’s attention.”
Wilson found a silver lining in Tuesday’s brutal litany of sorrow and violence – people of all political persuasions came to Tuesday’s event, he said later.
“There’s so much division going on up in Washington and other issues – any time we can rally around something we all can agree on, I really like it.”
He added, “We can do better.”