The Evansville Police Department says a deadly shooting spree over the weekend which left three people dead was an act of domestic violence. 

EPD says 32-year-old Magyn Sears had a protective order against her husband, 33-year-old Daniel Sears, and the couple was in the process of a divorce. Police say Daniel Sears violated the protective order several times including on Saturday. 

On Monday, the Vanderburgh County Superior Court opened its new Protective Order Assistance Office. Brad Byrd talks with Judge Mary Margaret Lloyd about what the new office offers and how it will help with the protective order process.

Transcript of interview: 

Brad Byrd: “Welcome to In-Depth. As we’ve reported at the top of the hour — three people died over the weekend in a shooting in what police say was an act of domestic violence. A woman had a protective order against her husband as they were in the process of a divorce. Today – A new office in Vanderburgh County opened up to help those going through often difficult the protective order process.  I’m joined tonight by Vanderburgh County Superior Court Judge Mary Margaret Lloyd. Judge Lloyd, thanks a lot for being with us tonight.” 

Judge Lloyd: “You’re welcome.” 

Brad Byrd: “This is a tragedy that we saw play out this weekend. Let me give you a hypothetical here… Had this office been in place… and oh, the irony that it opened today.” 

Judge Lloyd: “Yes.”

Brad Byrd: “After this happened. But, had this office been in place, would there had been more resources for the victims of this crime to seek? Would it have made a difference?” 

Judge Lloyd: “I don’t think anybody will ever know, to be honest, if it would have. We’d like to think that it would have.  Part of the office – the Protective Order Assistance Office’s goal to educate the people coming in for protective orders about what the available resources are and how they can safety plan.” 

Brad Byrd: “And this is something that you have wanted, you tell me, for a long time.” 

Judge Lloyd: “For a long time.” 

Brad Byrd: “And what sparked that desire?” 

Judge Lloyd: “Well, one thing about… I’ve been a judge now for – going into my 18th year. And I’ve done thousands and thousands of protective orders. So, there’s a lot of times, in Vanderburgh County, we set all of our protective orders for hearing roughly about a month later. From – you get an ex-parte protective order where it’s one side.. you have the petitioner come in, they ask for the protective order, if it gets granted, it’s set for hearing about a month later. And at the hearing, the other side is present, or has the opportunity to be present, they don’t always show. But, they have the opportunity to be present, and we conduct a hearing, listen to the evidence on both sides and decide whether the protective order gets granted. So a lot of people… petitioners don’t show up for the hearing, and it could be a wide variety, you don’t know the reason why they don’t show up. They just don’t show up – the protective order gets dismissed. Or they come in and have the protective order dismissed.” 

Brad Byrd: “Is there a fear here, though … I mean the specifics of a protective order … we’ve heard skeptics. I had some people comment on my Facebook page tonight. A piece of paper will not stop some people.” 

Judge Lloyd: “You know …” 

Brad Byrd: “What is your response to that?” 

Judge Lloyd: “And that’s something I’ve told petitioners for years – that there are some people who will respect an order of the court, and there are some people who won’t. Regardless of whether you have a protective order, you still need to take steps to protect yourself and a safety plan. But, what a protective order does do, let’s say, hypothetically, the respondent appears at your house. You can call the police and the police can arrest the respondent for being present at your house. Before there’s harm done, hopefully, before there’s a threat of harm. So it can curtail, possibly, because the police have the ability to arrest. Hopefully before violence.” 

Brad Byrd: “And there are all indications that Maygen Sears was doing what she was supposed to do… she did contact police, she got the protective order. How does that strike you as a judge? I know you follow the law, you interpret the law. But in your heart, the fact that this woman, for example, did everything she was supposed to do… and she’s gone.” 

Judge Lloyd: “To be moved by the tragedy of it. One thing about my profession is I deal with a lot of sad, sad situations. So, when you hear this happened – and she apparently was trying to do everything to protect herself.  And when it just didn’t work … you know, coming in Monday morning and finding that out this morning that she was seeking protection and she wasn’t safe … it’s horrible.” 

Brad Byrd: “And this new office you were tell me in the newsroom … this will at least keep that initial due process as far as divorce cases or any cases of any type of domestic situation … will keep it the same building that first critical day. Why is that so important?” 

Judge Lloyd: “A lot of people … if you come in for a protective order, it’s basically like a 8 or 9 page document that you literally have to fill out and then the judge will review it. If you have someone who’s decided their going to come in and take affirmative action to try and change their circumstance, they come in and they get handed this packet. It can be overwhelming, intimidating. So, by having this office, you have somebody who on a domestic violence or a sexual assault case someone who can fill out that paperwork which is huge. Somebody … it’s a private room. If you think about it, you’ve just been sexually assaulted and you’re coming in for a protective order in the clerk’s office and there are people all around, they don’t have the opportunity for privacy. And the clerk’s not to blame, but you can have some place private to talk about it.” 

Brad Byrd: “You can have an advocate go right with you into the courtroom.” 

Judge Lloyd: “And if this is set for hearing, Albion Fellows has provided advocacy service for years. Well, they’ll sit with the petitioner. They’re not attorneys, they don’t practice law, but they’re there so the petitioner is not alone facing. They’re facing respondent for the first time, they’re presenting their case to why it should be granted, and they have somebody there just for the support system. A lot of people don’t know about that, and they don’t know Albion has offered that service for years. But our protective order assistance office can help educate. ‘Oh, by the way, you can go to Albion. They have an advocate that can sit with you for the hearing.’ If you need some housing, you can go to the Y-W. You can go to Albion where it’s safe housing for you.” 

Brad Byrd: “And you know, there are other victims I know that you see in this process, but often they don’t have a voice. And that’s the kids.” 

Judge Lloyd: “Exactly.” 

Brad Byrd: “Let’s just say that if a mom wants to protect her kids or dad wants to protect his kids, how can this office add additional help.” 

Judge Lloyd: “Well, this office was obtained and created because I obtained a federal grant from the Office of Violence Against Women. And there’s three components to the grant. One is establishing our protective order assistance office and paying for staff. Second is paying for supervised visits and exchanges at the parenting time center. For instance, if you have a protective order and you don’t want the two parties present when parenting time when the child is going from one parent to the other because the child is going to witness some stress on the families, there could be a violent situation you don’t want the child to have to witness. So, part of the funds can be for the child to be dropped off by one parent at the parenting time center, parenting time center takes care of the child, that parent leaves, the other parent comes, retrieves the child, so the parents don’t see each other. So, the parent has a pleasant not fearful watching mom and dad and stress. The child has a much more happier and comfortable exchange.” 

Brad Byrd: “It might sound like a worn out phrase, but it’s been around forever. And the kids are always the ones who get hurt. Judge Lloyd, thank you so much for talking to us about this new office, and it is right on the first floor of the Civic Center.” 

Judge Lloyd: “It is room 108. If someone wants a protective order, they go to room 108. And they will either give them the form, and they’re complete the forms themselves and take them to the clerk’s office. Or if it is a domestic violence or sexual offense, the office can help them with the forms, and they can send them to the clerk’s office, and they go to the judge’s office either case, and the judge reviews whether it will comply with the statute on getting it granted.” 

Brad Byrd: “Alrighty. Judge Lloyd, thank you so much for coming by tonight, and we appreciate it.”

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(This story was originally published on Feb. 12, 2018)