Violence Victims Condemn System

Kate Santich
April 2, 2013

When a 45-year-old Central Florida woman tried to get protection from a neighbor who stalked and threatened her, she first encountered a half-dozen police officers who didn’t know the stalking law.

Then she had three different judges on her case, one of whom scolded her in court for writing the judiciary a letter pleading to have her complaint heard and told her the stalker was merely infatuated and probably would lose interest in about a year.

“I don’t know what was worse — the stalking or going through the system like that,” said the woman, identified only as Dawn, in testimony before the Orange County Domestic Violence Commission Tuesday evening. “The injunction process was a nightmare.”

She was one of about a half-dozen speakers who told the panel of judges, law-enforcement officials and victims’ advocates about serious roadblocks and gaps in the legal system that allow, for instance, alleged abusers and their attorneys to badger victims or fail to alert law-enforcement to potential violence.

One of the most poignant testimonials came from Andy Jimenez, whose 52-year-old mother, Gladys Cabrera, was shot and killed by Bradford Baumet at Las Dominicanas M&M Hair Salon in Casselberry last October. Cabrera was merely an innocent bystander — a customer — when Baumet entered the shop owned by his former girlfriend and opened fire. He killed three people before killing himself.

“In my opinion, the system has failed my family,” he said. “Bradford Baumet, the man who murdered my mother, was an individual with previous gun and domestic-violence charges in another state. … [Yet] there was no red flag to alert law-enforcement that this person may be dangerous” because the two states didn’t share information.

“What happened to my family can happen to anyone,” he added.

The commission — revived early this year after more than a dozen domestic-violence murders in Orange County since last September — is midway through a step-by-step investigation of the legal process from the initial 9-1-1 call through the post-sentencing stage. Preliminary reports are expected next month, but several panelists commented on problems they’ve discovered so far.

In the first 48 hours after arrest, for instance, the person who most frequently contacts the victim is the alleged abuser, said Harbor House CEO Carol Wick, who runs the county’s lone domestic-violence shelter and prevention agency. Many victims are unaware of the resources available to them, she said.

And Orange-Osceola State Attorney Jeff Ashton said abusers who enter a pre-trial diversion program often go free for months before the program begins.

“That’s clearly unacceptable,” Ashton said.

The commission’s next meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. May 3 at the Orange County Administration Building.