Six Milwaukee County women killed in domestic violence in past two weeks

In two weeks, six women lost their lives to domestic violence in Milwaukee County.

They were mothers, daughters, sisters and friends.

All were women of color. All were shot dead.

Cynthia Walker, 66, was killed on her front porch on July 8. Prosecutors say her estranged boyfriend pulled the trigger.

O’keyin Riles, 42, and her daughter, La’Dasia Porter, 19, were shot and killed on July 14 at a home near West Ring and North 6th Streets. Family members believe La’Dasia was trying to protect her mother during a domestic violence situation. Police say a suspect was recently arrested in Arizona.

Ninoshka Maestre Lozada, 24, was killed in West Allis on July 18. Police arrested a suspect and said they had a domestic relationship. Lozada was a mother of four children.

Alwiya Mohamed, 20, was killed Tuesday by her husband, who later committed suicide at their home in Milwaukee. The couple had a 1 year old son.

Ladda Donsanouphith, 49, was shot and killed in the south of the city on Wednesday in a domestic violence situation. She was the mother of three sons. The suspect then committed suicide.

And over the weekend, another woman was shot dead in Milwaukee in a domestic violence incident. Police say the 32-year-old victim has life-threatening injuries.

Relatives and friends posted tributes to those who lost their lives. Among them was Charnell Riles, sister of O’keyin Riles, who organized an online donation page for funeral expenses.

The deaths of her sister and niece came “totally out of left field,” she said in an interview. “Nobody knew what was going on. There are a lot of things we don’t know about the investigation. A wound is still open.”

“They were loved by many people in Milwaukee and by their families in Mississippi and Louisiana,” Riles added. “There have been so many people reaching out, donating and sending their condolences and it warms my heart to know that she had an impact.”

La'Dasia Porter and O'keyin Riles

As their families and communities continue to grieve, those who work with survivors of domestic violence say recent tragedies reflect the continued need to reach people with culturally appropriate services.

“We are living in really, really tough times,” said Tammie Xiong, executive director of the Hmong American Women’s Association.

Donsanouphith’s death occurred near West National Avenue and North 35th Street, an area with several Lao businesses.

“We know this area really well and so when we heard about it, it was completely devastating,” Xiong said.

“We Understand Our Communities:” Culturally Appropriate Options for Victims of Domestic Violence

The death of Mohamed, a Somali refugee who arrived in Milwaukee at a young age, was a “wake-up call” for the local Muslim community, said Janan Najeeb, president of the Muslim Women’s Coalition of Milwaukee.

“Based on a conversation with some family members, it seemed he had jealousy issues,” she said. “But no one ever thought it would escalate into something like this.”

The coalition has run Our Peaceful Home, which serves Muslim families experiencing domestic violence, for three years but has struggled to gain broad buy-in from religious leaders and families who prefer to keep things private, she said.

That changed last week.

During Mohamed’s funeral, Najeeb and other lawyers distributed pamphlets in Somali and English. This week, community religious leaders will dedicate time in their sermons to the issue of domestic violence.

The efforts show the power of having culture-specific resources so people don’t encounter barriers, language or otherwise.

“Each agency has a deep understanding of the community because they come from that particular community and understand the specific nuances and practices,” Najeeb said.

The Hmong American Women’s Association and the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition are among half a dozen agencies participating in the “We Are Here” campaign, designed to draw attention to these resources.

“We understand our communities because we work and live there,” Xiong said. “All of our services directly reflect the needs and wants of the community.

Vaun Mayes, an activist who founded ComForce MKE, said the recent wave of violence shows that even more resources are needed.

ComForce members are trained in de-escalation and have intervened in many domestic violence situations, helping people find shelter and other resources. Members also respond to homicide scenes.

Having alternatives to the criminal justice system and major domestic violence agencies is critical because the current system “doesn’t work for everyone,” Mayes said.

He called on heads of state to do more to create community responses in the wake of recent deaths.

“It just underscores the fact that many people have to endure domestic violence silently and without the proper support,” he said.

Support the families of the victims

Several families of victims have created GoFundMe accounts to help with funeral costs and other expenses. Click on the following links to donate:

Where to find help

  • Our Peaceful Home, which serves Muslim families and is a program of the Muslim Women’s Coalition of Milwaukee, operates a crisis line at (414) 727-1090.
  • The Hmong American Women’s Association, which serves the Hmong and Southeast Asian community, has advocates available at (414) 930-9352 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • The Asha Project, which serves African American women in Milwaukee, provides a 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. crisis line at (414) 252-0075.
  • The UMOS Latina Resource Center in Milwaukee offers bilingual, bicultural, domestic violence, sexual assault, and anti-human trafficking support services and operates a 24-hour hotline at ( 414) 389-6510.
  • The Sojourner Family Peace Center in Milwaukee operates a 24-hour confidential helpline at (414) 933-2722.
  • The national domestic violence hotline is 800-799-7233.

Contact Ashley Luthern at ashley.lutern@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @aluthern.