‘My son should still be alive’
By John Dobberstein, Editor
While many families celebrated Thanksgiving with their families, Maureen Bucherre was left to ponder her loss of a loved one, and if it could have been prevented.
Her son, Stephen Bernius IV, was shot and killed Sept. 19 by a tenant in his house after a disagreement over the thermostat setting got physical. Police say Cody W. O’Bryan pulled out a gun from his waistband and shot Bernius several times.
O’Bryan was later arrested at a residence in Jenks by the Broken Arrow Police Special Operations Team and U.S. Marshals District 27 Task Force. O’Bryan was charged with first-degree murder and he has pleaded not guilty, remaining in custody on $1 million bond.
News came to light that Bernius, 46, had requested a protective order against O’Bryan just 2 days before the shooting. Tulsa County District Judge Julie Doss denied the request, saying it did not meet the legal requirements.
Bucherre says that had this incident happened before 2019, her son's request for a protective order would have been granted. She believe Oklahoma’s domestic violence laws need to be rewritten or amended because they are too restrictive and do not protect people in all types of relationships. She created an online petition that now has more than 2,100 signatures.
Bucherre is trying to arrange meetings with state lawmakers to hand deliver the signatures and discuss potential changes to state laws.
‘I felt threatened’
Paul Stephen Bernius IV was born on Thursday, September 18, 1975 in Edison, N.J., the son of Paul Stephen Bernius III and Maureen (McLaughlin) Bucchere.
Bernius attended All Saints Elementary School and Bishop Kelley High School before graduating from Broken Arrow in 1994. He attended Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. Steve worked as an entrepreneur when he opened Elite Wireless, then managed ESales4U and owned Little Me Things Consignment.
When he died, Bernius was employed by Acosta as a merchandiser and in sales. According to his obituary, Steve enjoyed spending time with his two sons, as well as fishing, camping, boating, working on cars and rooting for the New York Yankees.
Bernius celebrated his last birthday the day before he was allegedly shot by O’Bryan. Earlier that week he had filed an entire, single-spaced page of information with Tulsa County District Court about O’Bryan – whom Bernius described as having a “violent personality and past” and had been displaying “erratic behavior” at the time.
“I found out that he has guns in his possession which I can’t legally be around…” Bernius wrote. “I am feeling fearful of his presence in my home and need him out immediately before myself or anyone else in my home are harmed.”
Bernius’ court affidavit stated O’Bryan had three protective orders filed against him and was facing charges for assaulting police officers. On Sept. 5, Bernius filed a report with the Broken Arrow Police Department after O’Bryan reportedly said “if you f__k with me, I’ll f__k with you.”
Bernius wrote that he gave O’Bryan notice to leave the home due to his behavior be he refused. Two days before he was shot and killed, O’Bryan allegedly lowered the air conditioning in the house to the lower 60s, and after Bernius used an app on his phone to switch it back, O’Bryan pounded on his bedroom door at 3:18 a.m., yelling, “You need to get out here now buddy.
“I felt threatened and in fear of what he would do, I did not answer and stayed in my locked room,” Bernius wrote. “He proceeded to the kitchen area where he continued his rant by slamming doors and yelling things. I could not understand what he was yelling.”
Bucherre said the crux of the problem is that laws in Oklahoma governing the issuance of protect orders can only be issued to people who are in a romantic, dating or marital relationship or related by blood.
“As a result, I lost my son and my two young grandsons are without their dad, my other kids without their brother and my 94-year-old mother lost her grandson,” Maureen said this week.
“We should all be concerned about the safety and protection of ourselves and family members. We all have a right to be protected from someone threatening and harassing us, particularly one with a history of violence and who has no respect or fear of the law or law enforcement.”
Police said Bernius had filed a report against O'Bryan on Sept. 5, saying he'd kept three cats in his room at the house and had failed to replace a doorknob. Documents also show that O'Bryan threatened Bernius.
At 1:30 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 18, officers were called to the home for a disturbance between O'Bryan, Bernius, and a friend of Bernius'. Police said Bernius was in the process of evicting O'Bryan from the home.
According to the documents, the roommates told police, later that night, the two men got into an argument on the back porch about O'Bryan changing the thermostat setting.
Bernius allegedly pushed O'Bryan into the garage and locked him out of the house. O'Bryan walked back to the porch, where the two got into a physical fight. The roommates said during the fight, O'Bryan pulled a handgun from his waistband and shot Bernius multiple times, killing him.
According to media reports, Tulsa County Trial Court Administrator Vicki Cox said Bernius' case didn't meet two specific requirements needed for the protective order to be granted.
"His particular situation was just an unfortunate situation all around and he did not meet the requirements for it," she said.
There was no stalking since the two were roommates and the two were not in a romantic relationship. “So, there was no legal way for the court to grant a protective order," Cox said.
‘There are no excuses’
Bucchere is determined to make changes to state law, even if it takes going door to door to collect more signatures and support.
She still feels the legal system should have offered more support to his son.
“Whatever the relationship is shouldn’t matter for a person to be protected when you are being regularly harassed, threatened or feel you’re in danger of another human being,” Bucherre said. “There are no excuses for ignoring someone’s fear.”