Authorities in Fort Lauderdale, Florida have confirmed the bodies of ex-Marine Ericka Joseph and her 9-year-old daughter, Akili Joseph, were found on Tuesday, Jan. 10. According to the Sun Sentinel, their deaths were the result of a murder-suicide.
After Joseph murdered her daughter, she reportedly killed herself. It has been reported that the girl’s father went to pick her up that day but immediately noticed something was wrong. Joseph’s brother, Tony Williams, shared details about the daunting moments that led to the discovery of his sister and niece’s deaths. The girl was scheduled to return to Colombia, Bolivia with her father after the Chrismas holidays ended. Williams explained how the unconventional pickup led to the discovery of their bodies.
“He was here to pick [Akili] up,” Williams said. “The pickup routine was uncharacteristic — that’s how we came about to learn [of their deaths]. My niece was a vibrant young girl and she loved sports. She was outgoing and smart,” Williams said. “It’s sad, a tragedy, and we still don’t know what happened as of right now.”
— James Angleton (@murdersuicide_1) January 14, 2017
Although the specific reason for the murder-suicide has yet to be confirmed, news outlets speculate Joseph did not want her daughter to return to her father despite their joint custody agreement. Williams also admitted the family wondered if his sister struggled with civilian life and may have been “battling something unknown.”
“We recently started noticing minor changes but not to a significant point that it would distress, that it would be something of this nature, to take a life,” brother Tony Williams said. “Might have been battling something that was unknown to the family at this time,” Williams said. “It’s caused now, obviously, a great tragedy.”
However, Joseph’s family members weren’t the only people to notice changes her behavior. Although the family noticed subtle changes, her neighbors reported seeing a bit more. The night the murders took place, Joseph’s neighbors saw her closing the hurricane shutters.
Fort Lauderdale Police Detective Keven Dupree shared details about the investigation into the murders. The police department hopes to determine what may have led to Joseph’s fatal decision.”At this time, detectives are on the scene investigating the cause of death and the circumstances surrounding it,” said Dupree. “It’s a very early point in the investigation,” he said. “We’re trying to determine what happened.”
Unfortunately, there have been many cases involving members of the armed forced who have committed domestic acts of violence toward their spouses and children. In fact, many of the cases have been classified as murder-suicides, and an alarming number of the murders have been associated with post-traumatic stress disorder.
— Timkidda Cashfundz (@Iam_timkidda) January 13, 2017
According to Slate.com, Marines with reported symptoms of PTSD had a higher chance of committing violent crimes. However, untreated PTSD could also have damning effects on veterans and their family members.
“A 2010 study funded by the Marine Corps and conducted by the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego surveyed 1,543 Marines with at least one combat tour and found that Marines who had reported PTSD symptoms were more than six times as likely to engage in antisocial and aggressive behaviors than those who did not report PTSD symptoms.”
It is unclear whether or not Joseph suffered from symptoms associated with PTSD, but the subtly disturbing changes in her behavior may have been indicators of her condition. The investigation will be ongoing as medical examiners work to determine the cause of death. Williams is in the process of making funeral arrangements for his sister and niece.
[Featured Image via Scott Olson/Getty Images]