Police: Ex parte order may not have stopped shooting

Monday, October 23, 2006

Nearly two months before she was shot and killed in a Ste. Genevieve, Mo., grocery store, Melinda Domminguez sought protection.

On Aug. 23, Domminguez filed a petition seeking an order of protection against her killer, Patrick Williams, and his father, Kenneth Williams.

That petition was denied. On Tuesday she was gunned down in Rozier's Country Mart in Ste. Genevieve by Patrick Williams, who then shot and killed himself.

According to the judge who denied Domminguez's petition, she did not qualify for an order of protection. As some officials point out, any such court order may not have stopped the shooting anyway.

"It's not going to physically protect you," Cape Girardeau police spokesman Jason Selzer said.

At its best, an order of protection, or ex parte, works as a deterrent and allows police officers to arrest a suspect caught violating the order, Selzer said.

Often, an ex parte orders a person to stay a certain distance away from another person, their home and work, according to Selzer. If the offender intentionally violates that buffer zone, police can arrest them.

"If they call right away and we respond and arrest, then boom, that ends that sequence right there," Selzer said.

In a similar situation where an order of protection is not in place, police may not have the grounds to arrest the offender, he said.

Ste. Genevieve County Judge Raymond Weber denied Domminguez's petition for protection. He did so based on requirements in the state statute.

Because the Williamses were not family or a household member, and there was not a history of stalking, Weber had no basis to issue the ex parte order, the judge said.

"If they're afraid, they're afraid, but you have to have some basis of someone stalking you," to receive an order of protection, he said.

In Domminguez's case, Weber referred her to the police, who had been investigating a threat from Kenneth Williams, the judge said. The elder Williams was issued a summons about two weeks earlier for trespassing and harassment of Domminguez.

In general, ex partes are used to defuse an immediate danger in situations where spouses live together, according to Weber.

For a 31-year-old New Madrid, Mo., resident, that held true.

The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, is staying at the Cape Girardeau Safe House for Women following years of abuse from her husband.

One recent night, the woman fled her home and sought refuge at the Safe House. Once there, she filed and was granted an order of protection.

Her husband has not violated the order and has claimed in court that he has seen the ex parte as an opportunity to change for the better, according to the woman, who said she was still planning on filing for divorce.

"It's kind of a wake-up call, and it will make them stop and think if they fly off the handle," Safe House court advocate Betty Brown said of ex partes and offenders.

kmorrison@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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