POTTSTOWN, Pa. — A Pennsylvania man called police Friday to report he had “hurt his wife,” who officers found dead in the couple’s living room, authorities said.
Michael Hatfield, 69, of Pottstown, is charged with first-degree murder, third-degree murder and possession of an instrument of a crime, according to Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele. He is being held in the Montgomery County Correctional Facility without bond.
A news release from Steele and Pottstown Police Chief Mick Markovich said Hatfield called Pottstown police just after 11 a.m. Friday. Responding officers found Mary Hatfield, 71, dead of strangulation.
“The investigation revealed that, according to the defendant, the married couple had had an argument on Wednesday night and he used an orange extension cord to strangle her,” the news release said.
Steele described Mary Hatfield’s death as the “worst end result” of domestic violence.
“People living in domestic violence need to know there is help available, even in these unprecedented times,” Steele said. “Reach out to Laurel House or the Women’s Center of Montgomery County. They can help.”
The New York Times reported last week that there has been a surge of domestic violence incidents worldwide as much of the globe locks down to stem the spread of COVID-19, which as of Tuesday morning had sickened more than 1.9 million people, killing 121,897 around the globe.
More than half a million U.S. residents have been infected, with a total of 23,134 deaths reported as of noon Tuesday.
“Abuse is about power and control. When survivors are forced to stay in the home or in close proximity to their abuser more frequently, an abuser can use any tool to exert control over their victim, including a national health concern such as COVID-19,” the National Domestic Abuse Hotline’s website states. “In a time where companies may be encouraging that their employees work remotely, and the CDC is encouraging social distancing, an abuser may take advantage of an already stressful situation to gain more control.”
The United Nations has called for urgent action to combat the problem, the Times reported.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, said last week that the confinement forced by the pandemic is creating added strain on families worried about their health, their safety and their finances. It is also increasing the isolation already suffered by women with violent partners, according to the UN.
The situation is “a perfect storm for controlling, violent behavior behind closed doors,” Mlambo-Ngcuka said.
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