Becky Wortman

Joni Lofton worked with Becky Wortman, above, for more than a decade at a Louisville tax office and jokingly remembers her as a crafty account.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Louisville Metro Police said a woman died at the hands of her husband in one of the city's latest murder cases. John Wortman shot his wife Becky, according to police, and then killed himself Friday in their south Louisville home.

It was exactly what domestic violence rescue organizations in the city feared most. Their message now — in the face of a global pandemic — is that if staying home is not safe, you can get help.

Joni Lofton worked with Becky Wortman for more than a decade at a Louisville tax office and jokingly remembers her as a crafty account.

"She had so many sewing machines that would do embroidery, appliqué..." Lofton said. "She would give it as gifts."

Lofton said they lost contact with changing jobs but that she never would have imagined the friend she loved for her warm, bright smile would die in such a violent way.

The Center for Women and Families said it's seeing an increase in calls for verbal, emotional and physical violence with many victims trapped at home with their abusers without the escape of school or work.

"How do you stay safe in your own home when you have a perpetrator living in your home?" said Elizabeth Wessels-Martin, CEO of the Center for Women and Families. "And that's one of the things I don't think people were prepared for when we enforced this quarantine, what the dynamics would look like and the increase in violence."

And there's concern for children too as CPS has limited home visits.

"It's gut-wrenching. It is absolutely gut-wrenching," said Pam Darnall, president and CO of the Family & Children's Place. "And what we know about child abuse, especially child sexual abuse, is isolation helps keep that secret. So the more children are isolated from others the easier it is for that abuse to continue and to begin."

LMPD said it hasn't seen an increase in domestic violence calls, but national reports say it's on the rise. So why is there a discrepancy?

"We have heard from several victims at the domestic violence intake center that they didn't call police because they thought we were not coming," said Lt. Shannon Lauder with LMPD. "And that's so concerning for us.

"If you call 911, and you need help, we are still coming. We will be there for you."

 The message from all now: You can get help.

"We are open just like we've always been," Wessels-Martin echoed. " People can come to the center as a walk in, our crisis line is open, Greyhound is still running. So if folks need to relocate we will help them relocate.
Lofton said she's a domestic violence survivor herself, which makes Wortman's passing even more painful. She wishes she could have been there for an old friend.

"It's like you're constantly walking on eggshells," she said. "It's almost hard to breathe."

But she hopes others will get help before it's too late.

"Get help. Get out. Save yourself," she said. "All it takes is one time."

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