Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson threw her support behind a bill to require police officers to conduct lethality assessments when responding to domestic violence cases.
Henderson spoke to a Senate committee on Tuesday, alongside her aunt and uncle, whose daughter, Amanda Mayne, was killed by Mayne’s ex-husband Taylor Martin last August. Utah law enforcement agencies have voluntarily used an 11-question assessment for years, though, no assessment was completed in Mayne's case.
"I feel I represent my family and my cousin, but I represent everybody in this state as well," Henderson told lawmakers. "And there are a lot of people, a lot of victims, a lot of families that have suffered."
Henderson said Martin had a long history of violent behavior — including threatening to kill former Utah Gov. Gary Herbert — and thinks that a lethality assessment may have made a difference.
"There is a long history here of things that were caught, things that were not caught, dots that were not connected. The circle had not been closed," she said. "... We need to connect the dots. We need to have information for law enforcement as they are in the situation, to know if this offender is a high-risk offender — if this offender is someone like Taylor Martin, who has a high risk of being violent or escalating."
Our family is reeling from the devastating and senseless loss of my sweet cousin, cut down in the prime of life — a victim of the sort of violence that has become far too prevalent in our state. We are shocked and grieving. We will miss this precious soul and her golden smile. pic.twitter.com/Jsk6w6zZDV— Deidre Henderson (@DeidreHenderson) August 18, 2022
Despite being restricted from buying firearms, Taylor Martin was able to obtain a gun and ammunition before shooting Mayne 11 times, according to Amanda's father, Kent Mayne.
"That's one of the worst parts of this; it should not be that easy for a restricted felon to obtain a firearm," Mayne told the committee.
He said he can't be sure if a lethality assessment would have saved his daughter's life, but said, "it was certainly an opportunity missed for some further intervention that might have saved her."
Help for people in abusive relationships is available in Utah and nationwide
- YWCA’s Women in Jeopardy program: 801-537-8600
- Utah statewide Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-897-LINK (5465) and udvc.org
- 24-hour Salt Lake victim advocate hotline: 801-580-7969
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233
SB117, sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, would require law enforcement officers to conduct lethality assessments when responding to reports of domestic violence between intimate partners. It would also create a statewide database of assessment data and would require data sharing between agencies, so that officers have access to information about previous offenses by alleged aggressors.
If passed, the bill would require all law enforcement officers to ask the victim the following 11 questions:
- If the aggressor has ever used a weapon against the victim or threatened the victim with a weapon.
- If the aggressor has ever threatened to kill the victim of the victim's children.
- If the victim believes the aggressor will try to kill the victim.
- If the aggressor has a gun or could easily get a gun.
- If the aggressor has every tried to choke the victim.
- If the aggressor is violently or constantly jealous, or controls most of the daily activities of the victim.
- If the victim left or separated from the aggressor after they were living together or married.
- If the aggressor is unemployed.
- If the aggressor has ever attempted suicide, to the best of the victim's knowledge.
- If the victim has a child that the aggressor believes is not the aggressor's biological child.
- If the aggressor follows or spies on the victim, or leaves threatening messages for the victim.
Weiler said if the victim answers yes to any of the first three questions, it would trigger an immediate referral to a women's shelter or another organization that can provide victim services. Access to a gun and previous instances of choking the victim are also critical, he said.
"Sadly, we now know that the father of the family that was murdered in Enoch, Utah ... there was a police report that the eldest daughter had been choked by her father and that seemed to be an indicator of higher risk of violence in the future," Weiler said.
Several police officers and victim advocates spoke in favor of the bill, which ultimately received a unanimous positive recommendation from the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee. It will now head to the full Senate for a vote.