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AG & AG Member Takes Her Fight to Capitol Hill… And Wins!

AG & AG Member Takes Her Fight to Capitol Hill… And Wins!

“My Life” by: Teresa Mckensie

I grew up in the coal fields of Southwest Virginia. My dad was a coal miner and my mother was a homemaker. I was the oldest of three children and a tomboy through and through. We played outside till dark in the summer with friends we still have in our lives. We shared all our family meals at the table and sat in Church together on Sunday. As I grew into my teens I began to appreciate my dad’s love for cars, and actually still love the cars of the 50s and 60s today. We were the typical loving family, spending weekends and summers at the lake with our extended family and friends. So how did a girl from this loving family who had never witnessed her parents ever say a cruel word to each other get involved with a man that was abusive and controlling?

Looking back at my thirty-year marriage and wondering why I stayed so long, I do realize there were some good days. There were never good years, but there were good days. Out of this most awful marriage came three wonderful sons of whom I am so proud.

My husband’s control and abuse became worse with each year, and by 2002 I had decided to leave my marriage. I didn’t know how, but I knew either I would have to leave or he was going to kill me. The day was January 6, 2003. With such control and an unsettling peace on his face, my husband told me that it was time for me to die and then he was going to commit suicide. I didn’t sleep all night and prayed if I got out of the house in the morning to go to work, I would never go back. And I didn’t.

On January 7, 2003, I met with my attorney filed for divorce, then appeared before a Magistrate to get a Temporary Protective Order. My husband was removed from our home. Seven days later we went to Circuit Court and he was served with a Permanent Protective Order, although I knew it was just a piece of paper. My husband was no longer in control and I was in danger. I was afraid to sleep or go out after dark or even go to the grocery store. I felt like I was being watched and later I found out that I was.

On March 7, 2003, at 10:30 P.M., my husband cut my phone lines while I was on the phone. I dropped the phone and ran into my bedroom to get my gun. When I returned to my kitchen, he was coming through the window. I point the gun and told him to leave. He continued to come in, so I fired the first shot. I missed so I fired another shot, but missed again. My 16-year-old son told him to leave, but he ignored him, still focused on me. I gave my son instructions to go to the neighbor’s house and call for help and I would be right behind him. I fired one more random shot and started running.

I made it safely into the neighbor’s house. My husband followed me and knocked on the door. My neighbor opened the door to tell him that I did not want to talk to him, but he pushed his way in armed with a knife. I ran, but he followed me, jumped on my back, knocked me to the floor, and stabbed me multiple times before my neighbor and his son could stop him.

My husband was charged and convicted by a jury of attempted murder, malicious wounding, breaking and entering with intent to commit murder, violation of protective order, and ordered to serve 36 years in prison. Since parole was abolished in Virginia in 1995, I had no worries he was gone out of my life.

Three years ago I received a call from the Virginia Parole Board to inform me that my ex-husband had applied for Conditional Geriatric Release, which is available for those over the age of 65 who had served five years of their sentences.  The Parole Board gave me the opportunity to speak against his release, which I did, and he was denied early release. Last year he applied again and I went back to the Parole Board and plead my case. He was denied again.

It was December 2011 and everyone was shopping, cooking, and decorating for Christmas; however, it was time for me to go back to the Parole Board and plead my case again. I waited for their decision, which I got right before Christmas, that he was denied parole again.

My ex-husband has applied for Geriatric Release for the past three years. Since he has 20 more years to serve in prison, I am sure he will apply 20 more times. I needed to take control away from him, so I began working to change the Code of Virginia.

In 2013 I met with my Senator to discuss our options. I wrote a preliminary bill, but I was rushed to meet deadlines and it would be costly to the Dept. of Corrections. I put more thought into the bill to make it less costly and get it passed. I wrote a new bill and met with Delegate Yost, who felt that we may have a good chance to get it passed and sent it to Legislative Services to be drafted into HB 868:

HB 868 Geriatric prisoners; conditional release, persons subject to protective orders ineligible.  Introduced by: Joseph R. Yost.
SUMMARY AS INTRODUCED: Conditional release of geriatric prisoners; persons subject to protective orders ineligible. Provides that a prisoner who was convicted of a felony act of violence and who was subject to a protective order at the time of the offense is ineligible for conditional release from prison due to age if the victim of the felony offense was the protected person under the protective order.

My friend and victim witness advocate, Teresa, made a call to Senator Puckett, bringing life to SB 561. Both bills received committee assignments and I drove to Richmond to speak before the committees when they came on the docket. Both HB 868 and SB 561 passed out of Committees, and then passed the full House and full Senate.

When the Virginia governor signs the legislation on July 1, 2014, it will become law.

I am so thankful for all the support I have received, and a special thank you to the Roanoke Chapter of A Girl and A Gun Club.

Teresa Mckensie
Radford, Virginia

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