In an earlier post, Held Up, I mentioned a story I was writing about a single mom who was murdered by her ex-husband, with a baseball bat, at her office in Dallas early one morning in May. On Wednesday, the man, who had admitted to the crime, was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. The judge also recommended that he not be eligible for parole in 30 years, at age 68, as would be typical of the sentence. Betty, the grandmother of the three young children left in the wake, will be 90, then. The youngest will be 33. When it comes time for the judges in 2038 to review his case, assuming he is still living, they will read this judge’s note and make a determination.
Betty was pleased that the judicial system “got it right” this time, as it had failed her daughter for months prior to her death. Protective orders that limited contact were in place, but because police officers have to be present for actual infractions, rather than called on the phone afterwards, they don’t protect very well when you need them. These requirements need to be revised. Victims of stalking and harassment need to be taken more seriously, especially when they provide documentation with photographs, taped messages, written logs. Police departments need to be trained to recognize the difference between harassers and violent criminals, whether they’ve displayed violent tendencies in the past or not, and pick them up rather than put them on probation. Not all jealous husbands are killers, obviously. But the ones who might be should identified and treated aggressively.