File crime scene tape 2020

The latest in a string of recent homicides plaguing the Zachary community came after months of escalating threats the suspect made against his estranged wife, culminating in a shooting that left another man dead outside her home. 

Domestic violence killings across East Baton Rouge Parish have reached a historic high amid the coronavirus pandemic, and the killing Saturday morning again raises questions about what can be done to prevent tragic outcomes.

Zachary Police Chief David McDavid said the abuse victim in this case did everything she could but the system failed her — and by extension failed to protect the man who was killed.

"A restraining order is just a piece of paper. We've got to put some teeth on these cases," he said. "Are we really keeping the public safe? That's the thing you have to ask yourself."

Zachary police identified the suspect as Jeffery Neff, 34, who, in a restraining order issued just weeks ago, was explicitly forbidden from going within 100 yards of the property where the shooting occurred — the house where he had lived with his wife and children until their separation and his recent escalating abuse, court records show.

The victim was identified as Kylan Givens, 32, who was in a relationship with the woman who obtained a restraining order against Neff, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

Neff remained at large Monday afternoon after fleeing the scene and officers are actively searching for him, police said. The shooting was reported around 5 a.m. Saturday in the 4100 block of Hidden Pass Drive in Zachary, marking the city's third homicide of 2021 and adding to an unusual spike in gun violence for the otherwise relatively peaceful community. 

The Zachary police chief said authorities were aware of past calls for service about domestic disputes involving the couple. 

In her application for protection from abuse filed last month in East Baton Rouge District Court, the estranged wife described in harrowing detail two recent incidents when Neff threatened her life and terrorized their children and other relatives.

She submitted the application Jan. 22, the day after Neff came home drunk and confronted the woman and accused her of cheating, according to her account. When her child asked why he had a gun, he replied: "Because they will be carrying her out in a body bag if anyone calls the police on me tonight," the woman wrote in the application.

"Jeffery has cheated and abused me from the beginning of the relationship," she wrote. "I just want it to be over."

She said the night of the confrontation, his mother and other family members came over to calm him down, but to no avail. At one point, he put on brass knuckles and she called 911 six times with no answer, according to the application. 

"Jeffery kicked my truck and I put the truck in reverse and he cocked the gun," she wrote, saying he then told his relatives "he was gonna empty the clip in my ass today." The police arrived shortly thereafter, and he hid the gun to talk to officers, according to the application. 

Records show Neff was booked into East Baton Rouge jail hours later on domestic aggravated assault, then released on $10,000 bond. The conditions of his bond included issuance of the protective order, but did not impose additional restrictions such as an ankle monitor or curfew. 

In her request for protection, the woman described another incident in November when Neff started kicking her car while she and her children were inside, demanding to know where she had been. She drove to the police station and he followed her, then told her, "I got you" but didn't elaborate, according to her account.

Neff also has past domestic abuse arrests spanning several years. He pleaded guilty in 2018 to domestic abuse battery, court records show.

McDavid said various players in the local criminal justice system should have some serious discussions about using technology to help protect victims of abuse. He suggested more advanced ankle monitors or alarm systems that would immediately alert law enforcement when an abuser violates a restraining order. Of course, funding for such technology would be an issue for officials to figure out.

East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III said his office is in the process of rolling out a Stop the Loss program that involves local law enforcement agencies reviewing domestic abuse arrests immediately after they occur and notifying prosecutors about possible red flags the judge should consider when setting bail. Moore said that program is underway with the Baton Rouge Police Department and East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office, and officials hope to expand it to Zachary, Baker and Central police soon. 

Domestic violence homicides have been on the rise for months, a trend experts have attributed largely to the pandemic and resulting upheaval of normal life and significant financial pressures. Lockdown orders and social distancing guidelines also mean abuse victims are more isolated or sometimes trapped at home with their abusers. 

Another recent homicide in Zachary involved a woman's adult son fatally shooting her boyfriend during an argument. 

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