SALT LAKE CITY — Legislation to fix gaps in Utah domestic violence law that were exposed when a man shot and killed his ex-girlfriend and her son in a Sandy neighborhood last year is easily moving through the state Legislature.
Minority Assistant Whip Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, said the bills are "about letting women know, and other victims of domestic violence not just women, that if someone is hurting them they have somewhere to go and that they will be protected because we never want what happened in Sandy to happen again."
Jeremy Patterson opened fire on a car full of children after school last June, killing Memorez Rackley, 39, and her 6-year-old son Jase. Her 11-year-old son Myles and the 8-year-old daughter of a woman who tried to help the Rackley family were shot and injured.
Patterson, 32, then took his own life on the side of the street near the mother and child he had just murdered.
The House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee endorsed two bills Friday to strengthen laws on protective orders, stalking injunctions and pretrial release of alleged perpetrators.
SB27, sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, expands the ability to obtain a protective order to those who have or had a relationship with a suspect but never lived together and narrows the definition of a family member. Other revisions include requiring police to provide victims with easy-to-understand written information about resources, such as shelters, and seeking a stalking injunction.
Rackley couldn’t have obtained a protective order despite a previous stalking report because she and Patterson had never married or lived together. She would have been eligible to get a stalking injunction, but that court order doesn’t lead to an arrest on the first violation.
"It is our responsibility to take care of our children, to take care of our women, our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, our grandmothers. Women are sacred," community advocate Cassandra Begay told the committee.
HB165 provides clear guidelines for prosecutors and law enforcement regarding the pretrial process. It also offers additional protections to survivors of domestic violence to limit the interaction of the aggressor with the victim and his or her family.2 comments on this story
Domestic abuse survivors need protection and support while awaiting a trial, Romero said. Many are in danger of being abused and intimidated from testifying or pursuing charges, she said.
The bipartisan legislation is the result of months of negotiation among lawmakers, prosecutors, police, community advocates and domestic violence survivors.
"Like potholes, protective orders and domestic violence is not Republican or Democratic. It's just something that we all have to deal with in this life," Weiler said.
The two bills now move to the full House. The Senate passed SB27 last week.