Topeka The parents of Jana Mackey, who was slain in Lawrence in 2008 by her former boyfriend, urged legislators on Monday to approve a bill that would expand the definition of domestic violence and identify offenders earlier.
“Far too many women are being battered, children are witnessing this, and many people are dying,” said Christie Brungardt, Mackey’s mother.
Mackey was slain by Adolfo Garcia-Nunez, who was later arrested in New Jersey in connection with Mackey’s death, and committed suicide in a holding cell.
Mackey’s stepfather, Curt Brungardt, said he doesn’t know whether Mackey’s death could have been avoided if House Bill 2517 had already been law. But he said that her assailant had a history of violence that went unnoticed, and the proposed bill aims to designate domestic violence cases sooner and have offenders get treatment.
He also said the bill would be symbolic in nature, sending a strong message “that domestic violence is unacceptable.”
The House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee took the bill under consideration. Chair Pat Colloton, R-Leawood, said the committee will work on the measure in a week to 10 days.
The bill would expand the definition of domestic violence to include other crimes, such as arson and destruction of property, if they were committed by someone in an intimate relationship with the victim. It would also require that a determination be made in all criminal cases whether there is probable cause of domestic violence, and if so then an assessment must be made of the offender to see if they should undergo some kind of treatment.
Former Attorney General Robert Stephan also testified in favor of the bill, saying it seemed like a “no-brainer” because Colorado has had a similar law for 16 years.
And Stephan, who serves as chair of the Governor’s Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board, noted that 2009 was the deadliest year in Kansas for domestic violence, with 34 adults and 14 children murdered.
Christie Brungardt told the committee that allowing the status quo was unacceptable.
“The cost of doing nothing is far too high. Jana did the hard part,” she said.