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The 'Jensen Bill' in WI would make Restraining Orders actually useful, enforceable, and save lives

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05/16/2006 04:14 AM
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The 'Jensen Bill' in WI would make Restraining Orders actually useful, enforceable, and save lives
(comment: I urge everybody who has ever known a domestic violence victim to repost this all over the internet and urge all who support this to pass this on to their own local legislators so their states can do this too. It would cause many violent people to change their ways and let victims live with less fear. In worst case scenarios it would save their lives)

Murder victims' family turns anger to activism

Relatives hope DeBauche case leads to domestic-abuse law

By Andy Nelesen

A family that lost three loved ones to murder has a lot to be angry about. But with that anger comes a compulsion to find something positive out of the grief and pain.

Nine months after the murders of Amy DeBauche and her parents, David and Jane Jensen, all of Green Bay, their family members are drawing upon emotions and will stand silent no longer.

Earlier this month, an Oconto County jury found David DeBauche, 41, guilty of three counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the deaths of Amy DeBauche and her parents at their Mountain-area camping spot.

All three were shot multiple times, each with an execution-style shotgun blast to the head.

The family believes Green Bay police missed a chance to arrest David DeBauche and possibly save their family members' lives. They are angry at the way David DeBauche painted his victims when testifying in his own defense. They want some good to come of a tragedy, in the form of a program to protect people in domestic-violence situations.

"Now is our time and we want to speak out," said Anne Paluch of Pulaski, one of three of Jane Jensen's sisters to sit down for an interview with the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Blame game

The sisters are furious at David DeBauche of Green Bay for blaming his estranged wife their niece during his May 3 testimony. DeBauche testified that Amy's actions involving the couple's sons and his birthday prompted his anger and provoked him to go to the family's camping spot with plans to trash a camper. The murders, David DeBauche claimed, were not intentional.

"I think it was all lies," Paluch said.

"David knew Amy was never alone," Paluch said. "He always knew that she was with Janey and David because they protected her. He knew they were up in Mountain. It is my belief he went up there with the intent to kill. I am not sure, however, if he meant to get David and Janey involved in it and that's being extremely gracious."

DeBauche's statements rang hollow with the family.

"He was insulting us," said Mary VanDuyse, another of Jensen's sisters. "He was trying to put blame on Amy and that, in and of itself, was attacking our character, our family, our goodness, our beliefs.

"It was an insult to our intelligence and our family."

The sisters contend that DeBauche fabricated much of his testimony to make himself appear as a victim, something he did often over the course of his 13-year marriage to Amy, the sisters contend.

"And we couldn't react," said sister Sue Blanz, of Green Bay. "It was so hard to sit there and listen to him."

"As everybody saw, we lost it a couple of times," VanDuyse said.

The rigors of the jury trial traumatized the tight-knit family in ways that mirrored the pain they felt in the pre-dawn hours of Aug. 7 when they learned of the brutal killings.

"We were doing really good on healing until the trial," Paluch said.

"The wound is open now," Blanz said.

"It's wide open again," VanDuyse said, finishing her sisters' thoughts. "It's a mess."

"It's as bad, if not worse, than the week they died. The week they died, you're in shock. I just feel like, today, maybe my feet are on the ground and it's more real. It doesn't take much and I lose it."

Missed opportunity

The family is upset with the way Green Bay police handled Amy DeBauche's domestic violence complaint in November 2004. It was the first sign of real trouble, the family said, and the perfect time to put David DeBauche into the criminal justice system, a move that might have prevented a tragedy.

Records obtained by the Press-Gazette show that Amy DeBauche went to the Green Bay Police Department on Nov. 13, 2004, and told Officer LaVonne Crummy that her husband, David, had choked her to the point of unconsciousness during an argument the night before.

In notes made in the department's dispatch system, Crummy wrote that Amy DeBauche told her that the couple had consensual sex when they went to bed. No formal police report was filed. Crummy noted that she called David DeBauche and he denied doing anything to his wife.

"The officer called him on the phone? What is that?" said Blanz, the sister who has been spearheading the family's complaint with Green Bay police. "Of course David said, 'I didn't do anything to my wife.'

"That was (Crummy's) big, No. 1 mistake."

"We feel the Green Bay Police Department was totally and grossly negligent in the strangulation incident," Blanz said.

Crummy should have followed up with David DeBauche in person after the initial complaint and done a better job getting information from Amy, the sisters said.

The after-the-fact sex is a classic part of an abusive spouse's control mechanism, Blanz said.

"We don't have a problem with the entire department," Blanz said. "It's just this one officer."

The sisters contend that had David DeBauche been arrested after that choking incident, the criminal justice system might have been able to provide Amy better leverage for protection.

"It's always been about poor David DeBauche," Blanz said. "This poor little girl finally got enough nerve to flee the house and go down to the police department and they don't even follow through on their own professional (protocol).

"It was like talking to a brick wall. There's no excuse when a person doesn't do their job correctly when you're talking about life or death," Blanz said.

Policies followed

Green Bay police Cmdr. Jim Arts said he can appreciate the pain the victims' family is feeling, but the department believes Crummy acted appropriately.

"I think it's one of the worst situations you can think of something tragic happens to a family and I completely understand their situation," Arts said. "They're trying to say, 'How can this happen? Why did this happen?'"

Arts said the issue hinges on whether Crummy believed she had probable cause to take action against DeBauche.

"What the officer was looking for was probable cause whether or not to make an arrest and she didn't find it," Arts said.

"Capt. (Karl) Fleury did talk to Officer Crummy about this and he was satisfied with her explanation," Arts said. "I don't know exactly what was said in that conversation, but in the officer's mind, and her captain's mind, she sufficiently covered the call."

Arts said the probable cause to make an arrest is the threshold an officer must cross before the pro-arrest-mandate of domestic violence legislation kicks in.

"Discretion has been taken away in domestic-violence cases, but we still have to have probable cause to make an arrest," Arts said. Crummy "did not establish enough for probable cause to make an arrest.

"And then I think the phone call followed that. I think that was just to kind of clarify in her mind that she made the right decision."

Reports questioned

The family wonders why Crummy only made notes in a dispatch log versus writing a full report, a procedure outlined in domestic-violence legislation.

Arts said that an investigative report which is forwarded to prosecutors for review only comes into play if officers find probable cause for an arrest but for some reason opt not to place someone in handcuffs.

Amy DeBauche's situation never rose to that level, Arts said.

Amy and David DeBauche had several follow-up contacts with the Green Bay police over the course of what was a bitter eight-month divorce action and joint custody battle over their two sons, now ages 10 and 11. Custody debates, property division and physical altercations brought Green Bay police into the mix seven times.

At some point, Crummy flagged David DeBauche with a "use caution" warning in the department's internal dispatch system and a note was added alerting officers that DeBauche was believed to be a gun dealer.

Amy DeBauche filled out and signed a temporary restraining order request 16 days after reporting that her husband choked her, but the request never made it into court.

"She never filed it she was too afraid," Blanz said. "She was afraid it would infuriate (David) DeBauche even more.

"And what is a restraining order? Nothing. Lawyers told me that. Attorneys told me that. Restraining orders are a joke."

Even Arts admits restraining orders do not provide a lot of protection.

"As a matter of reality, unfortunately, (restraining orders) are regularly violated," he said.

Moving on

Blanz said the family has talked to lawyers and has considered filing a lawsuit against the police department; however, they've been told that it's a long, uphill, expensive battle.

"We've talked to lawyers and, yes, we feel (Amy's) civil rights were violated," Blanz said. "It's extremely hard to sue them. It would cost more than $50,000 to pursue the case."

But rather than continue with an attack on the police department, the family has focused its aim on the Legislature and wants to blend technology with new laws to afford some protection for people involved in domestic-violence situations.

Blanz said she has approached state Sen. Robert Cowles' office for help in drafting legislation that would allow victims of domestic violence with credible documentation of imminent danger to have their spouses or significant others monitored with a Global Positioning System transmitter that would alert a device worn by the victim when the attacker came within a pre-determined distance. The device would also signal an alert if the device were removed.

They want to call it the Jensen Bill, Blanz said.

The sisters contend that had their niece and the Jensens had warning that David DeBauche was in the area, they would have fled or taken greater strides to protect themselves.

Cowles said his staff is aware of the family's request and research into the issue has begun. Cowles' staff has made contact with the Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the state Professional Police Association, the state Legislative Counsel and has a call into the state district attorney's association.

"What I'd like to do is get input from all these groups and see what they think and find out what's doable and if this is a good idea," said Cowles, R-Allouez. "We're looking to see if another state has done this and what model they use."

Cost conscious

Cowles said the cost factor will be a significant hurdle. He has seen estimates that there are as many as 7,000 new restraining orders filed each year in Wisconsin.

"It's a complicated issue," Cowles said. "You've got to understand that lots of people ask me for money, so I am going to do my due diligence and at the same time, as much as I can, show sympathy for the family's plight.

"Ultimately good intentions have to be financed."

Amy DeBauche's aunts said the cost of a life lost outweighs any protest on costs of the program.

"Domestic abuse is epidemic," VanDuyse said. "How many thousands and thousands of dollars every day - are law enforcement agencies paying out for these reports and this red tape.

"And people are living in fear."

"Cost? That is an unacceptable answer," Blanz countered.

"What is the cost of this tragedy to the taxpayers of Wisconsin?" Blanz said, citing the cost of DeBauche's incarceration, the cost of the prosecution and evidence analysis.

"Not to mention that four taxpaying people are no longer paying taxes to federal government or state government because three are dead and one is in jail," she said.

"If they can have this for sex offenders, they should be able to figure this out," Blanz said.

The sisters want to use this opportunity to have something good come out of three tragic deaths.

"This would mean so much to us and so much to the Jensens," VanDuyse said

"My sister would expect this of us to help other people," Paluch said, her voice trailing off and giving way to tears.

The sisters say they just want to keep another family from feeling the pain and anger that's been coursing through their veins for eight months at any cost.

[link to www.greenbaypressgazette.com]