DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Family and friends are asking questions after a woman was killed by a man she took out an order of protection against. They want to know why that order was not effective.
Judge Timothy Wood cautions that orders of protection are just documents. While most people abide by them, some do not and a few even commit violence. He says the way the system operates; people need to take extra steps to stay safe.
Judge Timothy Wood is a Domestic Relations Judge. He says, “I think the system works, but is it a perfect system? No, clearly it’s not a perfect system.”
An imperfect system, but the only legal avenue available for the roughly 2,000 people who file for an order of protection in Montgomery County common pleas court every year.
When someone feels they need an order of protection, they file paperwork with the county clerk and present evidence in front of a magistrate, which can be physical injuries, voicemails, text messages, or oral testimony.
If granted, they can walk out with the order in roughly an hour and Sheriff’s deputies serve the person it’s filed against that day. But Judge Wood acknowledges there are shortcomings: “We put them on notice that it’s a piece of paper and they need to take additional precaution. This court can’t do anything more than that.”
And so, the burden often falls on the person who feels threatened to contact shelters or the prosecutor’s office for extra layers of safety. Dayton Police Lt. Jason Hall says, “A temporary protection order is just one piece of the puzzle, it’s just one tool that can be used to try to keep people safe. The other part of that puzzle is a valid safety plan.”
Sunday’s murder-suicide is a rare case. Judge Wood says most people obey the orders of protection. But he adds even though violence is uncommon, people need to stay alert and aware. “What I’m concerned about is some people will see it doesn’t happen frequently and then they don’t put in place the safety plan that they need to.”
Judge Wood says staff is on hand every single business day to help people file for orders of protection. But if someone feels unsafe on the weekend or afterhours, they should reach out to law enforcement immediately, or a community organization for help, before the court reopens.