A press release from State Rep. Barb Wheeler:
Tragic Events Inspire Legislation
Antioch, IL… On the morning of March 15, 2013, Diane Kephart was tragically murdered outside of her parents’ home in Antioch, Illinois by her ex-boyfriend, Paul Neff, who ultimately took his own life.
This very tragic series of events inspired the Kephart family to seek change and become advocates for victims of domestic violence.
The family reached out to State Rep. Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) with an idea that they believe may have saved their mother’s life.
The meeting between the Kephart family, Rep. Wheeler, and criminal defense attorney Ed Donahue led to the introduction of a new collaborative bill, House Bill 3744. This bill is aimed at strengthening Illinois’ current electronic surveillance laws to protect victims of domestic violence.
“In the wake of this awful tragedy, they have decided to become victims’ advocates to help protect others in ways their mother wasn’t. Their story has led to new legislation that we believe will better protect victims of domestic violence,” said Wheeler.
Approximately one month before the murder, Neff was arrested and charged with aggravated domestic battery, aggravated domestic assault, and possession of a deadly weapon after threatening Kephart’s life with a knife inside his home.
After the incident, Kephart proceeded to obtain an emergency order of protection against Neff.
Neff was released on bond 2 days later, and was not ordered to wear a GPS bracelet.
Prior to the court case and approximately one month later, Kephart obtained a permanent order of protection against Neff.
Three days later, Neff murdered Kephart outside her parent’s home and fled to a nearby abandoned trailer where he took his own life.
Under current Illinois law, upon a risk assessment and a 12 point evaluation, a judge has the authority to order a GPS tracking device for a person who has violated an order of protection.
This device alerts all parties (victim, police and defendant) should the defendant attempt to come within a certain distance of the victim.
HB 3744 would allow a judge the authority to order a GPS tracking device at a bond hearing, regardless of whether an order of protection is violated, if a person has been charged with a violent felony.
The electronic surveillance enforces the order and provides safety that a piece of paper cannot. As a condition of bail, the GPS tracking device would be ordered and paid for from the defendant’s bail money.
Jamie Kephart, daughter of Diane, reflected on the tragic death of her mother and the legislation her loss inspired:
“At the end of every day I just want to call my Mom and talk with her, and I no longer have that option.
“Our family doesn’t have the option to be with her this Thanksgiving, and it will be even harder this Christmas.
“It’s that emptiness in my heart that gets me up every day and motivates my family and I to fight in honor of my Mom and those who can’t fight for themselves.
“I pray every day to God to ‘grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and the courage to change the things I can.’
“We are so fortunate to have someone like Representative Wheeler to back up our family and push for change in legislation that could have saved our Mom and other helpless victims.”