A pair of bills aimed at strengthening Utah’s domestic violence laws are advancing at the Utah Legislature. They were prompted by the murder last June of Memorez Rackley and her six-year-old son, Jase.
The two were shot in Sandy last June by Jeremy Patterson, a man Rackley had briefly dated. Patterson fired at their car as they drove home from school, killing them and wounding several others before turning the gun on himself.
Rackley had told police that Patterson was stalking and harassing her, but she wasn’t able to get a restraining order.
“Because of the fact that they never cohabitated, she didn’t qualify for a protective order,” Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, told the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee Friday.
Weiler is running a bill that would change the definition of domestic violence to include people who dated but never lived together.
“We’ve [changed] the definition of cohabitation … to include a consensual sexual partner,” he said.
Currently, protective orders don’t expire, and Weiler’s legislation would also impose a 10-year limit unless a victim wants to renew it.
Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, is also sponsoring legislation that would set clear guidelines for police and prosecutors in certain domestic violence cases.
Both proposals were unanimously approved by the committee Friday. Romero said they send a message to victims.
“If someone’s hurting them, that they have somewhere to go and that they will be protected,” Romero said. “We never want something like what happened in Sandy to happen again.”