Kecia Gauthier was in her 20s when she was murdered by a stalker, and a northeast Michigan lawmaker wants to prevent the circumstances under which her death occurred by introducing legislation that would effectively create a public registry of people who have active personal protection orders (PPOs) out against them.
First-term state Rep. Peter Pettalia (R-Presque Isle) said Gauthier may still be alive today if PPO laws had more teeth to them at the time of her 2010 murder, which came at the hands of an ex-boyfriend who had reportedly stalked her for days prior to stabbing and shooting her and then taking his own life.
The man who killed Gauthier had been pulled over for a traffic violation in the vicinity of Gauthier’s home prior to her murder, Pettalia said.
“It could have saved this young woman’s life,” he said, adding that the man had been in trouble with the law in the past and had other restraining orders against him for contact he had with other women.
Under House Bill (HB) 4844, information on personal protection orders would be entered into the Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN) and kept there for a period of 10 years for use by law enforcement officials.
The law enforcement agency receiving a copy of a personal protection order would be required to enter that information into the Michigan Personal Protection Order Internet Registry, which would be created and maintained by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget.
Information included on the registry would be that which is “determined to be necessary to identify the individual restrained or enjoined under the personal protection order.” The information would be available to the public through the new registry until the PPO expires.
That information, Pettalia said, includes a description of the person, as well as a description of the reason the PPO was issued in the first place.
State Rep. Eileen Kowall (R-Highland, White Lake) said that while the measure could prove useful for law enforcement officials, she thinks PPOs are sometimes doled out too easily.
“Unless something has changed, maybe it’s too easy to get PPOs on other people,” she said, adding that perhaps “tightening things up” on the rules regarding the issuance of restraining orders may be something to look at in the future.
Pettalia said the legislation is not meant necessarily to include people who have PPOs against them as terms of a divorce, although they could end up on the registry if the bill is enacted.
“We tried to take that out of the picture as best as we could,” he said.
The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, where it awaits that panel’s consideration.