FREDERICK COUNTY, Md. - An advocate for domestic violence victims says the case of a Frederick County, Maryland man, accused of murdering his estranged wife the day after she filed for an absolute divorce, shows why the state needs tougher domestic violence laws.
On Saturday night, authorities say 33-year-old Frederick Sakyi ambushed his estranged wife, 33-year-old Tenisha Butler, outside her job at the Giant grocery store on Sugarloaf Parkway.
Deputies tracked him down and said they later found a handgun and a shotgun in his car.
Murder at Frederick County Giant highlights gaps in Maryland's domestic violence legislation
Court records show Butler filed for an absolute divorce the day before she was murdered.
Records also show Butler had an active protective order, barring her husband from contacting her or legally possessing firearms.
But Jenn Pollitt Hill with the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence tells FOX 5 that after a court orders the guns handed over, there's no mechanism to make sure it stays that way.
"And so that's a gap," Hill said. "If we were enforcing the laws we currently have on the books, a gun in this situation would have been taken away. What it can't control is if the guns are not reported, if the guns are stolen, or not registered."
Frederick County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Todd Wivell told FOX 5 his deputies can only do so much.
"As soon as the protective order is issued," Wivell said, "We do our due diligence to make sure we do everything in the law to make sure that person doesn't have weapons. But once that protective order has been issued, we do not continue to follow up on them."
The shocking murder comes as the number of domestic violence victims killed in Maryland every year remains stubbornly high.
According to MNADV, in 2019 the state recorded 29 deaths due to domestic violence, but every year since the pandemic it's remained above 56 — at a time when Hill says fewer victims are choosing to seek protective orders.
"If you go and ask the court to take away the guns, and guns aren't taken away," Hill said, "that tells the next victim don't bother going to the courts."
Hill also advises anyone with a stalking situation to create a safety plan. For example, victims should make sure they form some sort of plan for leaving a place of employment safely. She said any local domestic violence service provider can offer assistance in crafting a plan.
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