Domestic violence led to murder suicide at Decatur hotelPhoto by Dan Whisenhunt, taken outside the Courtyard by Marriott on Jan. 2.
Editor’s note: If you are in an abusive relationship and don’t know what to do, contact the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit Thehotline.org. This story includes contact information for local organizations that assist victims of domestic violence.
This story has been updated.
A review of police records and interviews with people knowledgeable about the situation revealed that her killer, Jerry Loch, had a history of abusing his partners, including Overman. After killing Overman, Loch committed suicide.
The Decatur Police Department continues to investigate the case.
“Our investigation into the murder of Ranie Overman and the suicide of Gerald Loch revealed a history of domestic violence in their relationship,” Lt. Jennifer Ross said.
Scores of people in Georgia lose their life to domestic violence every year according to the Georgia Commission on Family Violence and the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Overman’s death is an outcome that’s far too common according to local experts who help women escape abusive relationships.
Asher Burk, legal advocate for the Women’s Resource Center to End Domestic Violence, said, “Usually in these kinds of murder suicide cases it’s related to domestic violence, in my experience.”
Jeffrey Brown, the VP of marketing and development for the Partnership Against Domestic Violence, pointed to a recent report by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime that found more than half of women murdered worldwide were killed by their partners or family members. More than a third of those women were killed by a current or former intimate partner, according to Huffington Post story summarizing the report.
A report on domestic-violence related fatalities compiled by the Georgia Commission on Family Violence and the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence found that, on average, 130 Georgia residents lose their lives to domestic violence every year, most killed by a current or former intimate partner.
“These statistics also include deaths of alleged perpetrators, most of whom died by suicide after killing or attempting to kill the victim(s),” the report says. “Georgia consistently ranks in the top 25 states for the rate at which men kill women — and in recent years, often ranked in the top 10.”
The report also cites factors that could indicate when a domestic violence situation is likely to lead to a deadly outcome, known as “lethality indicators.”
Some of those indicators include a history of domestic violence, increasing severity of abuse, use of strangulation against a victim and alcohol abuse. The relationship between Loch and Overman included these indicators, according to police records and witness interviews.
An ex-wife of Loch’s, who asked that her name be withheld, said that Loch had abused her during their marriage.
Police records obtained by Decaturish show Loch was arrested for DUI in 2007. Alcohol played a role in other incidents of abuse against Overman that were reported to police.
Police responded to a call in July 2017 after Loch scratched her and pulled her hair. She told police Loch had a history of alcoholism. Overman said she did not want to press charges. An officer returned to the home a few hours later and found Loch in the middle of the floor, face down. Police arrested Overman and Loch when they returned to the home because, according to the report, they were both under the influence and accusing each other of starting the incident.
Overman’s daughter said the charges against her mother were later dropped because it was clear Overman was defending herself.
The most recent documented incident of abuse occurred this past Thanksgiving. Loch used his elbow to strike Overman in the face and then left. The bruises were visible to the officer who responded. According to the report, Overman told police that she and Loch had a history of domestic disputes, but that the incidents were not always reported to the police.
Kellie Paradise, a cousin who was visiting Overman during Thanksgiving, heard the incident. She said the abuse in Loch and Overman’s relationship escalated over time from verbal abuse to Loch hitting Overman in places that weren’t easily seen.
“Ranie believed that she could calm him down, and I tried to tell her otherwise,” Paradise said.
Paradise said she had seen pictures and videos documenting Overman’s abuse. She believes that Loch also attempted to strangle Overman at one point by putting his foot on her neck.
“He was not a nice man,” Paradise said.
After the Thanksgiving incident, Overman told Paradise she was going to seek counseling.
She does not know how or why the two ended up at the Courtyard by Marriott in Decatur on the night Overman died.
Brown, with the Partnership Against Domestic Violence, said that when women stay in abusive relationships, it can be hard for other people to understand. Leaving is not always as easy as it seems. Sometimes there’s a financial reason for staying, he said. Other times, there is genuine love left in the relationship. It can lead to a cycle of leaving and returning to abusers that leaves friends feeling apathetic, he said.
“The average domestic violence victim/survivor will leave and return seven or eight times before she stays gone for good,” Brown said. ” … There is some fatigue that develops in friendships, because not everyone understands that dynamic in those [abusive] relationships.”
He recommends that a friend looking to help someone out of an abusive situation should call the Partnership Against Domestic Violence’s crisis line at 404-873-1766.
“What we will do is offer that family friend some resources. Here are some tactics so you can talk to your friend, so when she’s ready to go, you have a list of resources that are right there and can support that person the best,” he said.
If a friend witnesses an act of abuse, they should call the police, he said.
“If the abuser is trying to kick down the door, there’s nothing we can do for you,” Brown said. “We need you to call the police.”
Burk, with the Women’s Resource Center, says women in an abusive situation can call his organization at 404-688-9436.
“We do have a confidential safe house in DeKalb County,” Burk said. “It’s 32 beds and we provide safe housing for women in that way.”
He said calling the Center can also help women plan their next move.
“What we do is talk to the individual, listen to them, come up with a plan,” he said. “If they are wanting to leave, we will come up with a safety plan to help them leave as safely as they can. They make the best-informed decision based on the information we give them. It’s nonjudgmental. If someone calls and they don’t know what they want to do, at the very least they’ve got someone who can help validate their experiences.”
Overman’s obituary says she was the mother of four girls. Paradise, her cousin, said the youngest girl is 6-years-old.
“She’s now at peace and no longer in pain or in harm’s way,” her obituary says.