'Gwen's Law' first step for family fighting domestic violence - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

'Gwen's Law' first step for family fighting domestic violence

Gwen Salley at far left (Source: Theresa Donald) Gwen Salley at far left (Source: Theresa Donald)

The family of a woman allegedly shot and killed by her husband is channeling their pain into motivation to fight against domestic violence.

Gwen Salley's family played a huge role in passing Gwen's Law. It's named for Gwen Salley, who police say was shot to death by her husband Michael Salley on May 2, just a week after she filed a protective order against him. The order filed on April 29 listed the Salleys divorce as pending.

Michael had just been released on $50,000 bond from a previous domestic violence charge, when he abducted the 39-year-old mother from their daughter's daycare in Stonewall, forced her to drive into Caddo Parish and down a logging road. Police say he then shot and killed Gwen before turning the gun on himself.

The Caddo Sheriff's Office released Gwen's cell phone to her family. The phone itself is covered in shattered glass and blood, a chilling reminder of her last moments.

Though the look of the phone is disturbing, it is a sight Gwen's father, Benny Cox, wants the public to see to understand the seriousness of domestic violence.

"There is nothing that compares to losing a child," said Cox.

Gwen's last sent text messages reveal that she was scared and nervous because her estranged husband had bonded out of jail.

He was released less than 24 hours after he was arrested for pointing a gun at Gwen, threatening to kill her. Gwen's family thinks the judge should have kept Mike in jail longer, to let him cool down.

"I'm still at the stage that I am pretty bitter," Cox said. "The whole time he was in jail, he was figuring out how to kill her. Had he had 7 or 10 days in jail where he could have calmed down and cooled off, possibly, not only would he not have killed her, but he wouldn't have killed himself."

But instead of wallowing in their pain, Gwen's family instead chose to take action to change the law that they say didn't protect Gwen.

"I feel that my sister gave her life to save many others," said Theresa Donald, Gwen's sister.

State Rep. Roy Burrell, D-Shreveport, added HB No. 1142 "Gwen's Law" as an amendment to a bill. It sailed through the house and senate.

"It gives closure to me in a sense that I know Gwen would be happy," Cox said.

The law will make it harder for domestic violence offenders to bail out of jail so quickly,

by requiring a bail hearing for felony offenses for offenders. According to Donald, this means the victim has a voice and one judge cannot make the decision alone, which is what she said happened in her sister's case.

Additionally, if bail is granted, the court can require the offender to wear an electronic monitoring device. The court will also perform a risk assessment which will consider risk factors including substance abuse, gun ownership and record of violence.

"With that, it will not only assess you, it will also give that person time to cool off, a cooling off period, which Mike didn't have," Cox said. "He only had 15 hours in the jail, he was still drunk."

Donald said this law is just the beginning.

"Gwen has given me a voice," she said. "I will fight everything I got, for other victims of domestic violence."

Gov. Bobby Jindal signed the bill into law on Thursday, along with 5 other domestic violence bills.  Burrell has asked Donald to speak to groups of women about the new law to let them know their options.

"We can't do anything to bring Gwen back, but I know she is smiling in heaven knowing this law may save someone else's life," Cox said.

The bill was passed just three weeks after Gwen was buried.

To read the full bill, including all of the risk factors included in the risk assessment click here

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