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CONTRIBUTORS

EDITORIAL: Fateful meeting spurs senator to action

THE YORK DISPATCH

Sometimes it takes a personal connection for a lawmaker to take on a cause.

We're just sorry that that had to happen in a recent case.

State Sen. Pat Vance, R-Cumberland/York, is pushing her staff to find a way to fight domestic violence, researching protection from abuse orders in York County and looking at a Maryland program used by six police departments in York County to determine whether a domestic violence victim is in danger of being killed.

"I wish I had a magic wand I could wave and domestic violence would disappear," Vance said. "But is there anything to ever (completely) prevent that kind of inhumane treatment?"

The new urgency behind Vance's actions stems from one fact: She met Barbara Schrum on May 29.

Vance and a film crew visited Schrum's Dover store, Shoppe American Made, on a fateful day. The senator routinely highlights local businesses on her website, and Schrum showed her around the store with pride.

A few hours later, Schrum went with her friend Laurie Kuykendall Kepner to retrieve Laurie's belongings from the home she had left a few months before, where Laurie's ex-husband, Martin Kepner, lived.

Laurie had called state police, sheriff's deputies and a local constable to try to get an official to accompany her, but it's against policy for law-enforcement personnel to go on what are known as standbys unless there is a protection from abuse (PFA) or another civil order. Laurie turned to friends, and finally Schrum said she would go.

Schrum was sitting in the car when Martin Kepner shot her in the head and stabbed her in the neck, killing her. Laurie Kepner tried to run, but Martin Kepner fatally shot her, too, before killing himself.

Now Schrum's daughters, Alecia Armold and Becky Schrum, are working to see that police have the tools to help determine when a domestic violence situation is on the verge of becoming a tragedy.

Armold has begun a petition at change.org to make Pennsylvania police use a Lethality Assessment Program that has helped Maryland police decrease domestic-related homicides significantly since 2005.

Police ask 11 questions, and if the answers indicate an increased risk of homicide, the officer tells the woman, "I believe your life may be in danger. You need to talk to Access-York. I'd like to call them now."

So far, there are about 1,300 signatures on the petition, and Armold said she has been moved by some comments left online, especially "the number of people who said they tried to get help and couldn't."

Vance has met with Armold and Becky Schrum in an effort to get help for the victims of domestic violence, a cause made more personal by the death of Barbara Schrum.

"This was a good woman who was so proud of her business," Vance said of Schrum. "For that to be taken away from her is just unconscionable, especially when she was just being a friend."

We hope that personal connection will drive Vance and our other representatives in Harrisburg to find some way to deter such a tragedy in the future.