A Broken Arrow Mother’s Justice


Stephen Bernius (center)

By John Dobberstein, Editor

Maureen Bucchere has lived through many dark days since her son was killed last year by a tenant he was trying to evict from his home.

But the Broken Arrow woman was feeling grateful Wednesday after the Oklahoma Senate unanimously approved the Stephen Bernius Memorial Act.

Bucchere says it was a both a “sweet and bittersweet moment” when the bill passed but that was overshadowed a bit “with a very strong feeling of the presence of my son in the room, saying, ‘I love you Mom and I’m so proud of you.’

“It won’t bring my son back, but it will be his legacy and give all Oklahomans the ability to be protected when threatened.”

Bucchere thanked Rep. Ross Ford (R-Broken Arrow) and Sen. Darrell Weaver (R-Moore), “for seeing and believing in the need and important of this change.”

The measure introduced by Ford as House Bill 4374 expands domestic abuse laws that determine who can obtain a protective order. Weaver was the Senate principal author of the bill, which now goes to Gov. Kevin Stitt for his signature.

The bill modifies the definition of “family or household members” as used in the Protection from Domestic Abuse Act and the Domestic Abuse Report Act to include persons not related by blood or marriage who are living in the same household.

With the expanded definition, the bill states that “living in the same household” for the purposes of a protective order application means, in addition to blood related, marriage or romantic relationship:

* Persons who regularly reside in the same single dwelling unit,

* Persons who resided in the same single-dwelling unit within the past year, or;

* Persons who have individual lease agreements whereby each person has his or her own private bedroom and shares the common areas

“I appreciate Senator Weaver for carrying this cause forward in the Senate to help us avert future loss of life by broadening the list of those who can obtain such orders,” Ford said in a statement.

Bernius was shot and killed Sept. 19 by a after a disagreement with a roommate over the thermostat setting got physical. Police say Cody W. O’Bryan pulled out a gun from his waistband and shot Bernius several times.

Two days earlier, Bernius had applied for a protective order. But 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.

O’Bryan is charged with first-degree murder and he has pleaded not guilty.

Bucchere wanted Oklahoma’s domestic violence laws to be changed because they don’t protect people in all types of relationships. She 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.”

Bucchere still feels the law needs to be worked on a bit more in terms of there “being consequences for those who violate protective orders, even after the first time. This might help decrease the cases of violence.”


Death of Broken Arrow landlord spurs proposed law change

‘My son should still be alive’

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