We asked Tom Green County Sheriff David Jones to address some concerns enunciated by our readers concerning Sunday’s murder-suicide and the rise of domestic violence in Tom Green County in general.
Sunday, Tyree Timm’s live-in boyfriend of 32 years, John McDonald, shot and killed her and then turned the same handgun on himself in an act of suicide outside Timm’s residence on Old FM 380, east of San Angelo towards Veribest.
Before the shooting that occurred just before 1:13 p.m., a sheriff’s deputy had escorted Timm to the Old FM 380 residence to collect her belongings. The deputy reported that Timm said that McDonald had made a verbal threat against her. The deputy made contact with McDonald while at the residence. McDonald denied that he made threats, and in the opinion of the deputy, was calm and did not appear to be angry, or a threat.
Meanwhile a neighbor was with Timm, and the deputy reported that Timm said that she felt safe with the neighbor present and told the deputy that he could go. The deputy left at 12:18 p.m., spending nearly two hours with Timm.
Jones explained that as a law enforcement officer, there isn’t more a deputy can do with a report of a verbal threat except take the report and send it to the prosecutor. At that point, it’s up to the court system to decide whether there is enough evidence to prosecute.
Jones said domestic disturbance incidents are the leading types of calls to which his deputies respond. “A report of verbal threats is not that unusual. In fact, it’s usually the only complaint in a domestic disturbance call,” Jones said.
“On the other hand, if it’s evident that there’s physical violence, we’re required to arrest someone,” Jones added.
“We deal with domestic violence daily and every one of them has the potential to become violent,” Jones said.
In Timm’s case, Jones noted, McDonald walked outside and talked to Timm two times without incident. On the third trip, McDonald brought the handgun, the murder weapon, Jones said. “Domestic disturbances are unpredictable, and this was not an exception,” he said.
“The case is a very sad situation,” Jones said.
Another rumor spreading through social media and in comments on our site is that the deputy was at the scene when the murder was committed.
“That doesn’t even deserve an answer,” Jones said. “Our organization is very open with the public. We told you what happened as soon as we could. And if our deputy was there, you’d already know that too.”
About the suspected arsonist that torched the RV where McDonald was living at the scene, Jones said that he has called for a state arson investigation—an outside agency—and that he intends to find the perpetrator.
Jones was elected Sheriff in 2012, but he’s been a law enforcement officer for over 30 years. This is the third murder connected with a domestic disturbance since he took office in Jan. 2013. “One in Wall, then Grape Creek, now this,” he said.
Incidents of domestic violence are at much higher levels today as compared to when he first entered the law enforcement field in the 1980s, Jones said.
For a glimpse of the local problem today, according to statistics published by San Angelo’s Institute of Cognitive Development, inside San Angelo’s city limits, police respond to approximately 400 domestic disturbance calls resulting in about 100 charges filed per month (2013 statistics). Countywide statistics are not readily available.
“I have a certain amount of personnel and a large county to patrol. We can’t spend eight hours on every domestic disturbance call. It’s not practical. But we are doing the best we can,” Jones said.
Jones attributes the rise in domestic violence to more awareness and to it being a societal problem that cannot be solved with law enforcement alone.
More ominous, Jones said, domestic disturbance calls are more violent today than they were in the 1980s. “It’s a fact that more people out there are using firearms to solve their problems,” Jones said.
At the same time, Jones stressed that if you are a victim of domestic violence, do not hesitate to call the law, “There isn’t a call for service that we haven’t responded to,” he said.
Jones thinks that the county’s problem with domestic violence needs to be addressed in more ways than just law enforcement. “We need more social service programs to intervene in these situations,” he said.
By the time law enforcement is called, it may be too late.