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Aug 20, 2014 5:14 PM by Janine Reyes

Judge: Lifesaving Law Will Be Put To Use

CORPUS CHRISTI -- Mary's law is supposed to help prevent domestic violence cases from escalating to the level of danger just experienced by Leticia Perales, police say her boyfriend Jacob Salazar shot her four times last night. She's now in intensive care.

But the law, initiated by local leaders, has never been put to use in Nueces county.

We attended the District Judges' meeting today to find out why.

"I try to enforce that stay away order and I'll use GPS if I need to," Judge David Stith told us after the meeting.

He says those stay away orders could make the difference between life and death. That's why he orders GPS monitors to track abusers, but here in Nueces county, those GPS monitors aren't being used the way Mary's law intended. The law requires attackers to be tracked by GPS, but, the difference is if an abuser gets too close to a victim, that victim and authorities are notified by text.

Are there certain cases where you think a potential victim could benefit from having that kind of notice," we asked Stith. "I think its important to do in all the cases and if its not being done, then I'll tell you we're at our judges' meeting and I'll make it an issue on the agenda for our next judges' meeting we'll make that happen," he replied.

If they do make that happen, victims advocates like Susan Holley Lowe, who helped create the law says it will not just save lives, it will also give victims and their families some peace. Just yesterday, she saw a family in need whose youngest children understand the dangers of domestic violence too well.

"One of the children as they entered the shelter and the door closed said, 'oh mommy we have freedom now,'" Lowe said.

Larry Vanderwoude showed those devices and the latest technology to the Council of District Judges today. He says his company has the equipment and technology in Corpus Christi right now. all it takes is an order from a judge.

"It runs anywhere from $7 to $9 a day," Vanderwoude said, "the offender pays for it."

For the victims, though, the freedom of living with less fear is priceless.

"They live with that heightened level of fear all the time, that having to look over your shoulder constantly," said Lowe.

Some experts caution that Mary's Law gives victims a false sense of security, because if an offender cuts off the device, victims could be caught off guard. Judge Stith says it's still worth the effort to get this program going here.

Domestic violence is a big problem in Corpus Christi. In fact, the Women's Shelter of South Texas has exceeded its capacity of 65 people. There are currently 74 women and children staying at the shelter. Leadership at the shelter tells us they often see a increase in demand for services during summer months.

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