The Truth Behind TPOs

RENO, NV - TPOS weren't a part of Nevada Law until the late seventies. At that time domestic violence advocates went to Nevada lawmakers in Carson City asking them to create new legislation. During a hearing, one senator asked at the time, “Does this mean if I hit my wife, I have to leave the house? The answer is yes, but the scenarios surrounding TPOS can get much more complicated than that.

A 911 call on Christmas day 2011 led police to a home on Dyer Way in Reno where they found a man and a woman on the floor.

The man, Salvador Rico-Rivas, was still alive and in critical condition; his wife of ten years, Marisol-Galindo Rico, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Autopsy reports would show she was stabbed more than 20 times; her husband claimed she was the aggressor in a knife fight.

He, however, showed few if any defensive wounds.

” When she wanted to grow as a person, to develop some economic power of her own to develop herself start to begin to speak better English, to socialize better. He was resistant to many of these things,” says Bruce Hahn, Washoe County Chief Deputy District Attorney, and prosecutor in the case.

Hahn says court evidence showed the couple had heated arguments, that Rico-Rivas was physically and verbally abusive.

Marisol applied for and received a temporary protection order on December 16th in Washoe County.

“There was also some conflicting evidence that perhaps she was willing to permit a visitation of the children because it was Christmas. But, certainly not at 4AM--that's when he showed up. That's what the evidence showed,” says Hahn.

Marisol would die before she could get an extension on a protection order against her husband.

Her court date was slated for early January.

Extensions are granted on the first floor of the Second Judicial District Court Family Divison.

Sue Edmonson is a court master in family court and hears five to 10 cases a day.

It may be an initial request for a TPO which occurs after all the paperwork has been filled out.

:” Keep people safe, that's the whole point of these,” says Edmonson.

Edmonson works in Family Court for the Second Judicial District.

While we were in court she presided over two cases where the applicants were asking that the TPO be extended.

This is not uncommon and the scenarios can run the gamut. The adverse party was accused of drinking while visiting with his child.

In another case, the adverse party, the *girlfriend*, was in jail after deputies identified a bite mark on her boyfriend; he wanted no contact once she was released.

The subject of weapons can come up.

“I'm extremely concerned about that. When you put that together with alcohol and then the threat?” says Edmonson

In extension hearings the adverse party can state his or her side of the story as oftentimes the court master only hears one side of the story when the TPO is initially granted.

Edmonson says all of the information she gathers including threats, weapons or even if the TPO has been violated are important, especially as it applies to the applicant.

She says she may have to offer further advice because as she says TPOs are not fool-proof.

“This isn't gonna keep you safe. Its not going to keep you alive. If the person is determined to kill you, you need to be in a shelter,” says Edmonson.
But it's not always the adverse party who violates the TPO.

It can be the applicant who applied for the protection order just after a fight.

The heat of the moment can cool and the applicant might meet with the adverse party for coffee, they may allow the person to stay the night, or children may be involved, which makes the rules of the protection order complicated.

“And so Facebook, text, written record of people's communication. A lot of times before that it was he said, she said, or there were third parties witnesses. Now texts are written communication. Facebook, emails, all of these things are a stronger evidence and a growing part of our evidence in family court,” says Family Court Judge Linda Gardner wit h the Second Judicial District

Judge Gardner says because relationships are complicated, there is no way to tell exactly when a TPO will be violated and when it will turn into a homicide, as in the Rico-Rivas Case.

And there aren't enough law enforcement officers to enforce all the TPOS issued each month here in Washoe County or just about anywhere else in Nevada.

Carson City issues about 75 TPOs a month

The Sheriff says the math really doesn't add up.

“At the minimum we want to have 1 deputy assigned to 5 areas of town, 24 hours a day.,” says Sheriff Ken Furlong of Carson City.

But Sheriff Furlong says that doesn't discourage him from stepping up patrols should he be alerted to a potentially volatile situation.

That began back in 2005 after 40-year old Shelly Hachenberger was fatally shot by 48-year-old Chris Rasmussen.

Rasmussen, a retired senior corrections officer, and range master who trained other officers how to shoot, fired into his ex-girlfriend's home 20-to-30 times killing her, and then turned the gun on himself.

The Sheriff says Hachenberger, who had a TPO, told everyone, friends and family, Rasmussen was going to kill her, which is why she sent her two daughters away.

“And it caused us to alter the way we did business internally. And on a weekly basis, the folks in our civil division provide us with information, hey, this one stands out as a particular problem. And in some cases we have to put a patrol in that immediate area so yes, I think Carson City has a unique opportunity to so some of those things,” says Furlong.

“So it's a very delicate conversation, to have to say well, this one is not quite as important as this one. But the reality is: There are some that could have been resolved another way, There are all of them100% we need to treat them the same. While I may not believe you are in that much danger. I'm also not capable of predicting the future,” says Sheriff Furlong.

On January 16th , 30 year old Salvador Rico-Rivas was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole, and will serve 8-to-20 years consecutively for using a deadly weapon.