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Ohio May Allow GIS Monitoring of Protection Order Violations

State reps have introduced a bill to allow electronic monitoring of offenders when protection orders are violated, doing so in memory of Paulette Timko Propst, who was shot and killed by her estranged husband in 2011.

by Shelley Terry and Warren Dillaway, Star Beacon / November 3, 2020
At the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, the Ohio legislature still hadn't agreed on a budget. (Shutterstock)

(TNS) — Two Ohio legislators introduced a bill last week designed to protect victims of domestic violence.

State Reps. John Patterson (D- Jefferson) and John Rogers (D- Mentor-on-the-Lake), introduced House Bill 778, to allow electronic monitoring of offenders when protection orders are violated.

The bill was developed in memory of New Lyme Township resident Paulette Timko Propst, who was shot and killed by her estranged husband in 2011.

"I feel this is a critically important piece of legislation to better protect those who may be vulnerable," Patterson said. "With modern technology, a real time GPS tracking device placed on the ankle of a potential violator only makes sense. I am proud to support this legislation."

The bill would grant the court discretion in its ability to require monitoring in response to all classifications of protection order violations. It would also expand the specifications of order violations in order to allow law enforcement to alert the order-protected-individual when the offender has violated the order, according to House Bill 778.

"HB 778 will strengthen law enforcement's ability to effectively track and hold monitored abusers accountable," Rogers said in a prepared statement. "More importantly, this measure will provide an additional layer of protection to victims of domestic violence and/or abusive harassment. Ultimately, it is our hope that protected individuals and their families can find a greater peace of mind knowing GPS technology is being actively used to ensure their safety and prevent unwanted, unlawful encounters with offenders."

The bill is the result of advocacy from Propst's loved ones, as well community organizations, including Women Helping Women. It will bring public awareness and help protect victims of domestic violence in Ohio, Patterson said.

Patterson applauded the efforts of Robbi Zakowski, a friend of Paulette Propst, for helping get the bill to a place where it could be presented to the Ohio State House of Representatives.

Zakowski has been working with legislators, the criminal justice system and victims rights groups to raise money and create legislation to fight the problem.

"We are very excited ... It is 10 years in the making," Zakowski said.

Zakowski has worked with other domestic violence advocates from around the country to bring awareness to the problem. She said she is focused on ankle monitoring devices, she said.

Paulette Propst, 55, died of multiple gunshot wounds to the head, neck and trunk, according to the Ashtabula County Coroner's Office.

Police believe Thomas J. Propst shot his wife with a .45 pistol a few hours after being served with divorce papers and a temporary protection order, Sheriff William Johnson said at the time. Propst also went to a barn and shot and killed his horse, the sheriff said.

The couple's 18-year-old daughter was in the bathroom when her father came into the home. She heard voices, and sensing danger, she fled the home through a window and ran to a neighbor's house to call 911, Johnson said.

Thomas Propst, 55, went missing after the shooting. A nationwide manhunt ensued and the U.S. Marshals offered a reward for information leading to his arrest.

Three weeks later, while out for a walk, a neighbor came across a vehicle matching Propst's vehicle less than a mile from the murder scene. When police arrived, Propst was discovered dead inside his locked vehicle.

With a GPS tracker, if the abuser travels outside permitted boundaries or attempts to travel to the victim's home or work, the police and the victim are alerted.

A lifelong county resident, Paulette Propst was the mother of four adult children and active in her church and community, according to her obituary.

The Propsts' oldest daughter, Jennah Flegenheimer, said the bill will be life-changing.

"This will help so many women get the protection and peace of mind they deserve," she said. "I'm so thankful for Robbi Zakowski who deserves the recognition for spearheading this idea. She was one of my mom's best friends and saw that there was a need for this and I'm so proud of her."

According to the National Statistics Domestic Violence Fact Sheet, one in three women and one in four men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. This includes a range of behaviors, such as slapping, shoving and pushing that in some cases might not be considered domestic violence. One in seven women have been injured by an intimate partner.

HB 778 will soon be assigned to an Ohio House committee for initial consideration and public hearing.

Zakowski is helping coordinate a May 12 rally on the steps of the Ohio State Capital to create a visual representation of those who have lost their lives for have been harmed by domestic violence. The goal is to have people from all 88 Ohio counties attend the event, she said.

"We are going to give everyone a few moments to remember their loved ones," she said

Survivors of domestic violence looking for resources and referrals in Ohio can visit ODVN.org or call 614-781-9651.

If you are in an emergency, call the 24/7 National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

(c)2020 the Star Beacon (Ashtabula, Ohio). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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