Editor’s note: The statewide Minnesota Day One Crisis Line can be reached at 1-866-223-1111 by phone, or 612-399-9995 by text.
Days after a Rochester mother and her 2-year-old daughter were found murdered in their apartment, Olmsted County’s Health, Housing & Human Services Committee signed its annual proclamation declaring October as Domestic Violence Awareness month.
“The strangulation of a young mother, her unborn child and her 2-year-old, I truly wish that I could say that this was an anomaly but it is not,” Laura Sutherland, program manager of Olmsted County Victim Services, said to the committee. “We are seeing people snap quicker and harder than we’ve seen before.”
In 2019, Victim Services in Olmsted County served 368 victims of domestic violence and provided a total of 7,760 services. Sutherland told the commission during its meeting Tuesday that the county is “well on track to significantly exceed the amount of victims we provided services to last year.”
Keona Sade Foote, 23, who was in her first-trimester of pregnancy, and her daughter Miyona Zayla Miller were found dead in their Olympik Village apartment Sunday afternoon after family members became concerned they hadn’t heard from Foote for a few days. A GoFundMe page has been set up by Foote’s family to cover funeral costs. It can be found by searching Keona & MyMy Funeral Cost at www.gofundme.com.
Renard Carter, 29, is charged in Olmsted County District Court with three counts of second-degree murder for the deaths. He is hospitalized in South Carolina after being shot by law enforcement who went to arrest him.
Foote and her daughter join a gruesome list of names of people killed in Minnesota in 2020 by intimate partners. More than 20 men, women and children are among the names on Violence Free Minnesota’s We Remember memorial page.
Adding a name to the list, Smith said, is devastating.
Every domestic violence homicide is an incredible loss for that person’s family and community.
“It’s horrible. One is too many,” said Becky Smith, of the statewide coalition Violence Free Minnesota, adding that she hopes we can all collectively take the time to recognize the pain and commit to healing our communities.
And what makes it even more horrifying, Smith said, is that domestic violence is preventable.
Nashauna Johnson-Lenoir, the founder of Journie, helps Rochester’s youth learn about healthy relationships as part of the group's 8 Steps To Promotion Workshop Program. A survivor of domestic violence, educating young people on the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships is personal.
“It’s important to me to spread the word. I didn't have anyone there to help me,” Johnson-Lenoir said.
Before moving to Rochester, Johnson-Lenoir lived in a domestic violence shelter with her children. It was through the help of the shelter that Johnson-Lenoir was able to relocate, find a job, furnish her own apartment and get new copies of necessary documents like social security cards.
Johnson-Lenoir attended a vigil Monday night held in Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Rochester. Journie live-streamed the event on its Facebook page and Johnson-Lenoir said she brought some of the youth in the 8 steps program, as well.
“I felt it was my duty to be there. I was a victim, a survivor of domestic violence. Not everybody in this world experiences what domestic violence is like, but if you are ever in that situation,” Johnson-Lenoir said. “I know how scary that is. I know how hard it is to get out. You can’t just walk away.”
“I felt it was important for me to be there on behalf of her (Keona Foote),” Johnson-Lenoir said. “She couldn't be there. Her spirit is gone so I need to be there.”