After a Portsmouth man, William Michael (Mike) Layne, stabbed and shot his estranged wife, Christi Layne, at Notre Dame Elementary School in February, word has come out Christi Layne had sought and received a restraining order against her husband before the incident.
"I tell all of my clients - because I do a lot of work with Civil Protection Orders, and I work very closely with the Domestic Violence Task Force here in Scioto County and in Adams County, and as a prosecutor down there - I stress that all they have is a piece of paper, not a shield," said Portsmouth attorney and Adams County assistant prosecutor Rebecca L. Bennett. "It's not going to stop a bullet. It's not going to stop a knife. It's not even going to stop a punch. They have to be very careful, very observant about their surroundings and protect themselves."
A Restraining Order and a Civil Protection Order are two totally different things to be used in two different scenarios.
The Restraining Order from municipal court is what is called a Temporary Restraining Order, and that court issues those when there are charges of domestic violence that have been filed.
"That restraining order follows that criminal case, and it restrains the defendant from having any contact with the alleged victim," Bennett said.
The Civil Protection Order, which Bennett said people loosely refer to as a Restraining Order, is not the same document as the one issued in a municipal court criminal case.
"It is strictly a civil proceeding, and it's done through our Domestic Relations Court," Bennett said. "But if it is violated, there can be criminal charges from that. But it is actually just a civil proceeding, and it can be granted for up to five years."
What criteria should a person use when deciding which to file for?
"The Temporary Restraining Order comes in conjunction with a criminal charge that has been filed in Municipal Court," Bennett said. "The Civil Protection Order you simply can file the petition with Domestic Court and there never be a criminal charge."
She said people can seek the Civil Protection Order on their own, even if they don't report the incident to law enforcement, while a Restraining Order requires the involvement with law enforcement.
"There isn't anything that that paper is going to do to keep them (the victim) from being hurt," Bennett said. "Those orders are only good in protecting the victim as the respect that individual (the Protection Order is issued against) has for the law."
Bennett said what the order does do is present law enforcement with something they can charge the perpetrator with.
"It enables law enforcement to charge the person who has violated with an additional charge, and then typically municipal court sets a rather high bond on those people," she said. "In the case of a Civil Protection Order, where there may not be a criminal charge already pending, a violation of that Civil Protection Order is a criminal offense, and then the individual could, in fact, go to jail."
A recent report showed Scioto County with an abnormally high poverty rate, but Bennett said domestic violence is not necessarily limited to low-income households.
"Violence against members of the family, domestic violence against partners, spouses, parents and children, it goes the whole socioeconomic range," she said. "We're going to have violence in very affluent families just as much as you are going to have in your poor families."
Bennett has high praise for local agencies that assist women in domestic violence situations.
"Depending on their family and friends, if they are supportive and can offer them refuge, they can go there. In our area, we have a domestic violence shelter. That's an option that's available. We've got several ladies who are employed by the Task Force, and several ladies who volunteer their time, and they are tremendous," she said. "In addition there is the Southern Ohio Sexual Assault Treatment Center. Patty Pettigrew runs that, and although she doesn't have housing, she certainly is a tremendously fierce advocate for individuals that need help."
Bennett said the Domestic Violence Task Force refers women to attorneys in the area as well. In addition to Bennett and others, she said Southeastern Ohio Legal Services, including attorneys such as Rene Eubanks, works on women's behalf as well.
Bennett said women who need assistance are not alone, and recommended they seek help early when a domestic violence issue arises.
FRANK LEWIS can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232.