Protection order can't stop person hellbent on doing harm
There's no piece of paper strong enough to stop a person with a gun, an obsession and nothing left to lose, domestic-violence experts say...
Seattle Times staff reporter
There's no piece of paper strong enough to stop a person with a gun, an obsession and nothing left to lose, domestic-violence experts say.
Rebecca Griego had moved and changed her phone number since her ex-boyfriend, Jonathan Rowan, repeatedly threatened her during and after their on-and-off relationship. A judge had ordered Rowan to stay 1,000 feet away from Griego and her sister, whom he had also threatened. Griego had circulated his name and photo among her colleagues.
Yet she was killed Monday by the man she'd gone to such lengths to avoid.
"That's the problem," said King County Deputy Prosecutor Tim Bradshaw. "There's only so much a piece of paper can do, and too often it ends up blood-
In theory, a court order of protection puts people on notice that someone is afraid and looking for help. In reality, studies show such orders can ignite retaliation and rage.
In 1998, Melanie Edwards and her 2-year-old daughter were killed by Edwards' estranged husband in the parking lot of a secure child-visitation exchange facility.
According to Bradshaw, who filed murder charges against Carlton Edwards before he killed himself near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Melanie Edwards had done everything she was supposed to do.
She'd planned her escape carefully, documented her injuries, sought a protection order, asked her lawyer to hide her files.
She'd moved into a shelter, then a studio apartment in a friend's garage and took a new job. An ex-boss even hired a bodyguard for her.
"She was a woman who did everything right, sought help from the system and had a very impressive paper trail," said Bradshaw.
Because of deaths like hers, there was an effort among law-enforcement agencies and legislators to re-evaluate the system.
About five years ago, state legislators increased the penalty for violating an order of protection.
What used to be a gross-misdemeanor offense is now a felony offense with higher penalties.
"It now has the same penalty as kidnapping in the second degree or rape in the third," said David Martin, lead prosecutor of King County's domestic-violence unit. "It's a pretty serious crime."
He said that last year, approximately 5,000 temporary protection orders were issued in King County Superior Court.
Studies done by the U.S. Department of Justice, the University of Washington and others have shown, however, that legal remedies, such as the filing of no-contact orders, restraining orders or orders of protection, can sometimes spur offenders into lethal action.
Bradshaw tells the story of several men he's prosecuted who killed their family members after orders of protection were granted.
"Given the access to weapons, and the determination of some men, there is realistically nothing that can be done to stop them from doing what they did," he said.
After several college students were stalked and killed on campuses, the U.S. Department of Education and the Secret Service recommended in 2002, and again in 2004, that all schools and campuses maintain a Threat Assessment Team, according to Martin Speckmaier, a 22-year veteran of the Edmonds police force and manager of Comprehensive School Safety, a Seattle-based consulting firm that focuses on preventing school violence.
The teams, composed of members of the law-enforcement, mental-health and school communities, are intended to share information about victims and perpetrators, assess risk factors and put together plans for dealing with individual threats.
At the UW, the Threat Assessment Team is managed by the campus police.
UW police were notified of Rowan's threatening messages but did not place Griego under surveillance or escort.
A spokeswoman for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement said agents are investigating Rowan's citizenship status and whether he was staying in the U.S. illegally.
She said the investigation was launched Monday, in reaction to the murder-
Reporter Jennifer Sullivan contributed to this report.
Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or firstname.lastname@example.org