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Murder May Be Sign Of Local Domestic Violence Problem

Published On: Jan 10 2013 02:39:35 PM CST   Updated On: May 04 2011 07:17:09 AM CDT

What police say likely started as a domestic dispute, and ended in the death of Judith Rachel Johnson in Pocatello this week, has some saying this is a stark example of a growing problem in southeast Idaho.

Police are routinely called out to domestic abuse situations, and a local organization for battered women said violence in the home is increasing each year.

Michael Lane Sparks had been arrested before, for assaulting his wife, weeks before she was found dead in her home late Monday night.

Sarah Leeds, executive director of Family Services Alliance, said she hopes this tragedy might open a few eyes to a problem in the community.

"This kind of thing can be a wake up call, that, you know what, it's time for me to maybe do something," Leeds said.

Pocatello Police Sergeant Tim Dillon said dealing with domestic abuse situations isn't at all that rare for police.

"It's a problem. It's an issue that needs to be dealt with. It's something that we do take calls on, on a regular basis," Dillon said.

And it is a problem that appears to be growing. Leeds said over the past few years FSA has seen an increase in the number of women saying they need help.

"We're seeing a rise, and I know the Pocatello Police Department is seeing an increase as well. And it has huge costs to our community even though it's kind of a hidden problem,? Leeds said.

Dillon said it's not just bloody lips and black eyes that should be investigated.

"Even though you may just get pushed a little bit, or something along those lines that seems minor and insignificant, it is still a crime and needs to be reported,? Dillon said.

Sparks has not been charged in his wife's death.

County prosecutors are waiting on further investigation and say police will likely make an arrest Thursday.

Below you can find contact info for some local organizations that can help in an abusive situation.

251-HELP (4357) Pocatello Family Services Alliance

384-0419 Idaho Coaltion Against Sexual & Domestic Violence

529-4352 Idaho Falls Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center

332-0552 Bingham Crisis Center

356-0065 Rexburg Family Crisis Center