LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – A boyfriend accused of killing his girlfriend’s brother during a dispute Tuesday night in the northwest valley joins the increasing and troubling trend of domestic violence murders (DVM) in Las Vegas.

Metro Police reported 20 DVMs in 2023 through August 4, which does not include the at least four other DMVs reported since then. This time last year, the DMV total was 11, an 84 percent difference.

Liz Ortenburger, CEO of SafeNest, says her shelter for domestic violence survivors has consistently remained at capacity since she took on the role seven years ago and especially since empty hotel rooms offered during pandemic lockdowns were rescinded.

The limited space means only survivors of the most dire situations are accepted.

“If you were being strangled in any way, your chances of escalating to homicide have increased 750%,” Ortenburger said inside her office Wednesday afternoon.

She points to how frequently Nevada tops national lists for domestic violence and associated outcomes, along with a lack of confidential bed space and relatively lax gun laws, are fueling the problem.

“Being economically stressed does not make somebody an abuser. It doesn’t make somebody a survivor. But, if those tendencies exist, it’s going to exacerbate them,” Ortenburger said inside her office Wednesday afternoon.

While Psychologist and H.O.P.E. Counseling Services Owner Katherine Moldovan says a specific cause of the increase is difficult to pinpoint, she believes Nevada law exacerbates the problem too.

A first domestic battery offense is considered a misdemeanor in Nevada, with a maximum of six months in jail.

On average, Moldovan says the abuser only serves two days in jail.

“It’s really a slap on the hand,” Moldovan said inside H.O.P.E. Counseling Services Wednesday afternoon. “Animal cruelty: if you harm an animal, that’s a felony. If you beat your wife, you beat your girlfriend, that is a misdemeanor.”

Only after multiple convictions does the abuser face prison time, and Moldovan adds a majority of DVM happens while the victims attempt to leave or escape the relationship.

“If they were to be detained, instead of given this graduated sentence… That gives us the opportunity then to help that woman go underground, get a new identity, but to be able to break away from that relationship,” Moldovan said.

Those in need of help escaping an abusive relationship have access to these confidential services to speak with a local crisis center:

  • SafeNest 24-Hour Hotline: 702-646-4981
  • Crisis Support Services of Nevada: 775-221-7600
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233