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Warning signs came before Bethel woman was killed

December 22, 2018

Brandon Roberts’ threat to kill himself eight days before police say he murdered Emily Todd would have been flagged as a serious warning by those trained to help victims of domestic violence at Women’s Center of Greater Danbury.

“Some high-risk indicators include stalking, increased jealousy, threats to harm or kill oneself or others and strangulation,” said Ann Rodwell-Lawton, the director of education and training at the nonprofit organization.

Rodwell-Lawton said employees at the Danbury center are trained to create a safety plan for those facing high-risk indicators.

Todd, 25, of Bethel, died at the hands of 26-year-old Roberts, with whom she had been in a brief relationship, according to police.

The two met on a dating app about two weeks before her murder, Bridgeport Police Capt. Brian Fitzgerald told Hearst Connecticut Media shortly after Todd was killed. She was found on the shore of Bridgeport Harbor on Dec. 9, dead from a bullet to the back of the head. Police said she had been killed the day before.

Roberts, who was arrested at his father’s home in Ohio on Dec. 14, is charged with murder, felony murder, first-degree robbery, using a firearm in the commission of a felony and carrying a pistol without a permit. Detectives went to Ohio to pick him up this week.

According to police, Todd decided to end the relationship after dating Roberts for just a few days. And on Nov. 30, Bridgeport police got a call from Todd, who said Roberts threatened to shoot himself. She told 911 dispatchers he was driving a Chevrolet with Ohio license plates, and that he owned a gun. Todd also provided police with his cellphone number.

That evening, a Bridgeport police officer said he spotted Roberts’ car on Fourth Street near Stratford Avenue. Police said they spoke to Roberts by phone. A pursuit began but was called off because Roberts was driving recklessly, reports indicated and police later confirmed.

“Disengage,” a police supervisor said during the pursuit. “Just follow, lights off.”

That night, police did not take Roberts into custody.

In Connecticut, there were 11 intimidate partner homicides in 2011, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Each year in Connecticut, an estimated 46,750 victims are served by domestic violence relief programs, the coalition said,

“The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500 percent,” the NCADV said, citing a study that focused on femicide in abusive relationship.

On Dec. 8, the day before Todd’s body was found, she changed her phone number to avoid further contact with Roberts, police said.

Stephen Todd, Emily Todd’s father who lives in Maine, told the Press Herald website that the man his daughter had been dating became threatening when she tried to break things off.

“Domestic violence is complex and no one victim’s story will ever be the same,” Rodwell-Lawton said. She said it’s possible Todd did not seek professional help because she didn’t realize how serious the situation was — or would become.

“Victims can be in denial about the severity of the situation and try to fix the situation on their own without help from a domestic violence service agency,” Rodwell-Lawton said.

She said the Women’s Center of Greater Danbury wants victims to know they aren’t alone, and that help is available any time.

“It is possible that victims do not know that there are services available to them,” she said. “Even if they do know there are services available, it can often by scary and overwhelming to reach out for help.”

Rodwell-Lawton said the Danbury center offers free and confidential services in a judgment-free environment.

The national domestic violence hotline can be reached at 1-800-799-7233. The TTY number for the deaf and hearing impaired is 1-800-787-3224.

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