After colleague’s murder, City Council staffers turn attention to domestic violence in Philly

Linda Rios’ death was the 21st domestic killing of the year.

Linda RiosCropped
Linda Rios/Facebook
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Updated 12:30 p.m.

Philadelphia Police confirmed Friday that Linda Rios, the longtime human resources director for City Council, had been fatally shot by her husband in an apparent murder-suicide in their Holmesburg home.

News of Rios’ death sent shockwaves through City Hall. A constant well for local news, the government hub rarely finds itself so near the heart of the story — especially when it come to the city’s twin scourges of gun violence and domestic abuse.

The latter issue, however, has been far less discussed to date.

“This is a big one and a new one for us,” Councilwoman Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez told Billy Penn.

Council members shared condolences and memories of their veteran colleague, who joined the legislative body as a teenage summer intern and rose through the ranks. In a statement, Mayor Jim Kenney called Rios a “dedicated public servent.” Meanwhile, wrestling with their own anger and grief, Council staffers took to social media to speak out.

Jennifer Kates, chief of staff for Councilwoman Helen Gym, posted a thread on Twitter critical of the public discourse around domestic violence. She also encouraged people to the domestic abuse hotline run by Women Against Abuse, a local nonprofit that advocates and offers services to victims of intimate partner-related violence.

“20 women were already killed by a partner this year, in our city,” Kates wrote, citing a statistic offered by the police in the wake of Rios’ death. “She is 21. It is horrific.”

That statistic came by way of Homicide Capt. John Ryan. He said Rios was the 21th victim of a “domestic killing” this year — up from 14 this time last year. But in previous years, the city has similarly seen dozens of killings involving intimate partners.

Jane Roh, communications director for Council President Darrell Clarke, pointed to the cruel irony that Rios’ role in human resources meant she often engaged colleagues about their problems at home.

“Linda was the person who counseled you through this stuff, whose job it was to insist that you get help,” Roh tweeted. “A horrifying reminder that even the most aware among us can be victimized this way.”

Administrators offered grief counseling to City Hall staffers after the news broke — the type of service that Rios herself would have provided her colleagues amid such a tragic incident, sources noted.

Rios was inarguably well-liked, a radiant presence behind the scenes of our local bureaucracy. One colleague described her as “the warmest person in the building” on any given day. Photos on her Facebook page show her smiling alongside her twin daughters, as well as her husband and alleged killer, Haywood Neuby.

Police said Rios and Neuby had separated in recent weeks. According to the Inquirer, Neuby stopped by the house to see the children Friday morning when an argument between the two turned fatal. After neighbors phoned in the disturbance, police found Rios dead in the upstairs bathroom of their two-story home, suffering from three gunshot wounds. Neuby was found dead near the front door from a single self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The two daughters, home at the time, are now safe.

If staff sentiments are any indication of what’s to come in response to the tragedy, lawmakers may take hard look into the city’s handling of domestic abuse.

Quiñones-Sánchez said Rios was a first-generation college graduate who overcome “enormous obstacles” growing up. “She was the stable one in her house,” the councilwoman added.

Despite the alarming stats, it remains unclear how the police department tracks and qualifies a domestic homicide, and a request for comment could not be facilitated over the weekend.

For now, Rios’ colleagues bide their grief. Family and friends held a candlelight vigil on Saturday night in Rios’ Holmesburg neighborhood.

“We’ll find things to do in her memory,” Quiñones-Sánchez said. “For now, we’re just very concerned about her children.”