Death of Broken Arrow landlord spurs proposed law change

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By John Dobberstein, Editor

Oklahoma Rep. Ross Ford (R-76) has introduced a bill that would extend domestic violence protection laws to those living in the same household but aren’t relatives or in a relationship.

The state’s Protection from Domestic Abuse Act currently requires those seeking a protective order to be in a relationship with the perpetrator.

Ford’s amendment to the Act, House Bill 4374, includes “persons who regularly reside in the same, single dwelling unit.”

If the bill is passed it would take effect Nov. 1.

Rep. Ross Ford

The bill is a response to the death of Stephen Bernius IV, a Broken Arrow man who was shot to death by another man renting a room in his house just days after Bernius’ request for a protective order was denied by a judge.

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.

A Tulsa County judge ruled Bernius’ application didn’t meet the legal standard for protection because Bernius was not in a relationship or a blood relative with those in his house.

Bernius was shot and killed Sept. 19 by a 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 charged with first-degree murder and he has pleaded not guilty

Bernius’ mother, Maureen Bucchere, has wanted Oklahoma’s domestic violence laws to be changed because they don’t protect people in all types of relationships. Bucchere created an online petition seeking support for law changes that garnered more than 2,500 signatures.

“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,” Bucchere said last November. “There are no excuses for ignoring someone’s fear.”



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