A small group of protestors marched in uptown Charlotte today to mark the killing of Yolanda Nikkia Hill, who dies Sunday in what police are calling a domestic-related homicide.

Hill, 31, was found dead from a gunshot wound inside a house on Biesterfield Drive in north Charlotte. Police said she shared the house with the man arrested in connection with her death, 36-year-old Vernon Price Blackman.

Blackman (photo insert) was arrested Sunday and booked into the Mecklenburg County jail, charged with homicide.

Michael Sexton, a member of the Domestic Violence Advocacy Council, which held the midday vigil, said Hill’s death was the city’s third this year related to domestic violence. Police had reported three such deaths this time last year.

Sexton said the year-to-date increase could not be explained, but he noted that incidents of domestic violence do increase during periods of economic recession when families face financial strains or unemployment forces couples to spend more time together.

In the case of Hill’s death, police would not immediately say what led to the shooting, but some neighbors told the Charlotte Observer the couple had been arguing.

Sexton said the Domestic Violence Advocacy Council has been holding protest vigils for at least four years. At today’s march, members walked around the Square at Trade and Tryon streets carrying signs. They were soon joined by a small group of uptown workers who were out on their lunch breaks. One marcher struck a small drum every 15 seconds, marking the frequency with which a case of domestic violence occurs in the United States.

“If we can reach one person out there and make them realize that help is available, then we have succeed,” Sexton said. “There are a lot of folks our there living as hostages in their own homes or living in extreme fear.”

Editors Note: Women who need help escaping a violent relationship may contact the United Family Services Shelter for Battered Women at 704-332-2515 or the Mecklenburg County Community Support Services Women’s Commission at 704-336-3210.

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