Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell, D-Carson City, and Carson City Justice of the Peace Pro-Tem Karl Neathammer say the murder of Shelly Hachenberger pointed out serious flaws in Nevada's domestic violence laws - flaws they intend to fix in the 2007 Legislature.
A stalking order was filed against Hachenberger's former boyfriend, Chris Rasmussen, which was supposed to keep him away from Hachenberger. When he violated it July 11, he was arrested.Rasmussen bailed out three hours later.
On July 19, he violated the order again, but evaded deputies trying to arrest him simply by not answering the door at his residence. The next morning, he shot his way into Hachenberger's home and killed her, then turned the gun on himself.
Under current law, arresting officers have the discretion to hold violators of a restraining order for 12 hours. However, that 12-hour "cooling off" period does not apply to violators of a stalking order. So Rasmussen was able to use his credit card to make bail after a short time.
"We have to close this hole," said Neathammer. He said domestic violence is so common, Carson City has a deputy district attorney who does almost nothing else.
Parnell said she has already asked for a bill draft dealing with domestic violence.
Neathammer said police may need more power to make arrests for violating protective orders and that, perhaps, lawmakers should make arrests mandatory in specific situations.
"But I think we have to leave some discretion with the officer," he said.
Parnell said one suggestion might be to give officers some criteria to better decide who goes to jail for violating a protective order and who doesn't.
But both said they aren't etching the details of that bill draft in stone just yet. They want to hear from victim's groups, judges and, especially, street police and deputies who have to enforce the orders.
"I got more phone calls after Shelly's death than on any other issue," Parnell said.
Both invite suggestions from victims and advocates as well as judges and law enforcement on how to improve the law in hopes of preventing more deaths from domestic violence.
"We have to do something because nobody should wake up every morning and be fearful. We have people in this state who live day to day in fear, and that's not right."
n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.