You probably heard or read about it over the holiday weekend as we did — a massive manhunt was underway for a Cumberland County man after the gruesome death of his estranged wife.
After two weeks on the run, he was found and charged with the murder of Tara O’Shea on Wednesday.
O’Shea’s heartbroken family members were in court and willing to talk about their loss. They’re angry. And rightly so. She was in an abusive relationship with this man, they allege. There was a history of domestic violence, they said. O’Shea did everything she was legally able to do to protect herself and her children. She filed for and obtained restraining orders and even petitioned the court to allow her to leave the state to escape the abuse, a relative said. The judge would allow her to leave, but ruled she could not take her children. So she stayed.
If that's true, O’Shea’s senseless death is another harsh reminder that we're not doing enough to protect domestic violence victims in New Jersey.
It's not as if legislators haven't tried.
A bill introduced by Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-7th of Palmyra, and Ron Dancer, R-12th of Plumsted, that offers better protection for victims, dubbed “Lisa’s Law,” after another senseless death, was vetoed last year by Gov. Chris Christie.
The measure, inspired by Letizia “Lisa” Zindell, 30, of Toms River, who was strangled to death by her ex-fiancé, who had been released from jail the day before despite violating a restraining order many times, would have initiated a pilot program requiring defendants convicted of violating a restraining order to be electronically monitored. Offenders would risk three to five more years in prison and fines as high as $15,000 for tampering, vandalizing or removing the tracking devices.
This isn't a breakthrough use of the technology. More than 20 other states have instituted similar tracking programs for high-risk offenders.
Restraining orders alone are supposed to keep domestic abuse victims safe, but a large percentage of them are violated at least once, according to the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.
One of her friends said O'Shea knew if she couldn’t keep her estranged husband away, he would kill her. “She was constantly on the run from him.”
Lisa and Tara pleaded for protection from a wretchedly inadequate system, and it failed them.
We failed them.
Electronic monitoring of restraining order violators is no panacea, but knowing when your abuser is near would give victims options and add another layer of protection for clearly vulnerable New Jersey residents and their children.