Virus fears linked to US couple’s murder-suicide

An Illinois man fatally shot his partner before turning the gun on himself because he was afraid they both had coronavirus, police said.

Authorities discovered the bodies of Patrick Jesernik, 54, and Cheryl Schriefer, 59, at their Lockport Township home on Thursday.

The two had each been shot once, police say, and were found in separate rooms, with a gun lying near Jesernik’s body.

Both Jesernik and Schriefer ended up testing negative for Covid-19.

Family of the couple told police that Jesernik had been scared both he and Schriefer had contracted the virus. Schriefer – who had reportedly had recent difficulty breathing – was tested two days before her death. The relatives did not believe she had yet received results.

The individual who contacted police had been asked by Jesernik’s parents to check on their son because they had not heard from him, Will County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release. The couple’s address had no previous calls for authorities related to domestic disputes and “very little” police contact.

Investigation by local authorities found that Jesernik had shot Schriefer in the back of the head before turning the gun on himself. There were no signs of a struggle.

“During the current Covid-19 pandemic, the vast majority of service calls that deputies have been responding to involve domestic disputes and crisis intervention calls,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

Illinois officials have reported a total of 12,262 confirmed coronavirus cases state-wide since the outbreak began, with a death toll of 307. The country’s sixth-largest state is currently ranked ninth in terms of total cases.

“Abuse is about power and control. When survivors are forced to stay in the home or in close proximity to their abuser more frequently, an abuser can use any tool to exert control over their victim, including a national concern such as Covid-19,” said the US National Domestic Violence Hotline in a statement.

Globally, domestic abuse victims and advocates have also reported an uptick in violence amid the intensifying virus outbreak. In the UK, the National Domestic Abuse helpline, run by the charity Refuge, has seen a 25% increase in calls and online requests since the country went into lockdown.

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