Are Ohio’s Stalking Laws Strong Enough?

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CANFIELD, Ohio --

The victim in a shocking domestic violence case apparently did all the right things within her legal rights, but still ended up dead.  And now, many are questioning if the state laws on the books are strong enough to protect stalking victims.

In addition to having cameras mounted outside her home, and alerting everyone that she did in fact have a stalker, Stacey Sutera also had an order of protection in place. Still, it was not enough.  Among the conditions of the order of protection, Robert McLaughlin could not have verbal or physical contact with Sutera. He was not allowed in Mahoning County and he wasn't allowed to leave Lake County.  Also, McLaughlin was not permitted to use the internet or a computer and he wasn't allowed to have a firearm.

Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center CEO Linda Dooley Johanek says most of the time, protection orders are effective.  But for a small percentage, it's just a piece of paper. She goes on to say, "Seventy-five percent of victims will say that the violence either decreased or stopped once they got a protection order. So, that tells us they're very valid.  Unfortunately, that means twenty-five percent of the time, things either remained just as abusive, violent or at times, it even escalates."

Johanek adds it was no coincidence that the murder happened exactly one year to the date that a civil suit was filed by the victim against McLaughlin, since she says most stalkers are obsessed with dates and anniversaries. And while the laws did not save this woman, advocates still urge victims to come forward, document every incident and bring it to the proper authorities.