Three legislators say they will seek or support changes to state law following the death of Tiffany Hill, who was killed by her estranged husband in front of their three children outside a Hazel Dell school two days before Thanksgiving.
The legislators, speaking to The Columbian following Friday’s 2020 Legislative Outlook Breakfast, said Keland Hill’s killing of his wife and wounding of his mother-in-law underscores that more needs to be done to protect domestic violence victims.
“This was no surprise to people who care about domestic violence issues,” Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, said. “This is a huge problem, but it’s one people don’t want to know about and they don’t want to deal with after all these years.”
Wylie’s voice cracked with emotion when she talked about the possibility of a “Tiffany’s law” coming out of this tragedy.
“I don’t care if I am not on the right committees,” she said. “I have already reached out to the people who are on the right committees, and we are going to do something.”
Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, a member of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, said she witnessed domestic violence as a child when her father repeatedly abused her mother.
The system failed Tiffany Hill, she said, “and it made me sick to read about it.”
Wilson said she previously drafted legislation that would provide real-time electronic notification to domestic violence victims should their abusers, if they are wearing electronic monitors, come into close proximity.
“This type of technology, GPS technology, rarely fails,” she said.
Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, said she already has contacted Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, who is chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee.
“I don’t know where the system could be improved, but it is something I want to talk to my colleagues about,” she said. “Clearly we have a lot more hard work in this country to protect domestic violence victims.”
‘Enough is enough’
Tiffany Hill told authorities she feared for her life and reported a series of incidents that started with her husband’s Sept. 11 arrest.
Over the next 2 1/2 months, she reported that her husband repeatedly violated no-contact and restraining orders through text messages, FaceTime sessions and in person.
“This is a case that says enough is enough,” Wylie said. “She did everything right, but she shouldn’t have had to do everything right.”
Clark County Deputy Prosecutor Lauren Boyd feared that Keland Hill could kill his wife if given the opportunity.
Following the Nov. 26 slaying, Boyd has called for changes to state law and the judicial process to prevent domestic violence defendants who exhibit signs of escalating abuse from being released from jail.
Keland Hill unsuccessfully tried to buy a rifle in Oregon on Oct. 6 and, at some point, attached a GPS tracker to his wife’s car.
Boyd recommended that the Legislature review bail rules for domestic violence cases. Specifically, she said that defendants who attempt to buy a firearm — in spite of a court order barring them from doing so — should not be allowed to post bail.
Wylie said she intends to work with Boyd and embrace her recommendations.
“What the prosecutor is talking about is a minimum, but we need to do more,” she said. “This is someone who should have not had bail.”
Wylie said she met with Superior Court Judge Gregory Gonzales this week on a different topic, but their conversation quickly turned to Hill’s case and what can be done to prevent similar tragedies.
Wylie raised the prospect of establishing a domestic violence court, similar to speciality courts set up for drug offenses.
She also intends to coordinate House and Senate legislation with Wilson to provide funding for additional domestic violence training to new judges.
Wylie said she was not criticizing Superior Court Judge John Fairgrieve. In an interview, the judge said he “felt terrible” after setting a $250,000 bail for Keland Hill, only to have him kill his wife 11 days later.
“What I am hearing from our domestic violence advocates, this particular judge is one of the good guys,” Wylie said about Fairgrieve, who was appointed to the bench in April 2015.