While going through the New York State Divorce Family Court system, Kyra was taken to Virginia with her father. Kyra was shot twice in the back by her father, who then set fire to his house and committed suicide.
“She should have never been alone with him,” sad Franchetti. “Her murder was 100 percent preventable.”
While going through the Nassau County Court system, Franchetti had warned those around her many times that Kyra’s father was dangerous.
“I had told the judge, forensic evaluator, the attorney for the child and child protective services that he was suicidal, had severe anger and rage issues, needed to have coercive control, was not following court orders, was stalking us and each time I would bring it forward, instead of doing something about it, I would get yelled at. I was told by the judge to grow up. The forensic evaluator dismissed the claims of abuse. Child protective services listed the case as low risk because he hadn’t hit her.”
Franchetti explained that the day Kyra was murdered, she realized she had to do something and it was time for things to change. She didn’t know what she would do, but it would be something. She threw herself into research, reading books on child abuse and murders. Franchetti found that 58,000 children each year are court-ordered into a home with a dangerous parent who is sexually, physically or emotionally abusing them, 60 to 75 percent of abusers gain custody of the child when abuse is reported in custody, more than 650 children have been murdered by a parent nationwide while going through a custody battle or divorce just throughout the past decade and Kyra is one of six children who have been murdered in New York in the last two years.
“Courts are favoring abusers and not putting kids first,” said Franchetti. “The numbers are way too high. What happened to Kyra and me, can happen to you and someone you love.”
While doing her research, Franchetti came across three groups—DV Leap, California Protective Parents Association and Center for Judicial Excellence—that had the workings of a resolution started prior to Kyra’s murder.
Franchetti explained that the reason they worked on a Congressional Resolution and not a bill is because the federal government cannot dictate how state courts should operate and under our federal system of government, domestic relations issues such as divorce are considered state issues left to the jurisdiction of individual states. However, the resolution sends a strong message to states that there is a national problem and that the states need to do things differently. Specifically, the states need to make child safety the top priority in divorce and custody cases.
Franchetti teamed up with the three groups and spent the next two years going to Capitol Hill to tell Kyra’s story to representatives who would listen. She pitched in parking lots and elevators, gaining bipartisan support from New York State representatives like democrats Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Congressman Tom Suozzi as well as Republican Texas Congressman Pete Sessions and New York Congressman Peter King.
“When it comes to domestic violence, a court’s number one priority must be a child’s safety,” said Suozzi. “There is no greater tragedy than losing a child. Jacqueline’s strength has caused change and ensures that Kyra’s memory will live on by helping to prevent future tragedies.”
“One thing that gave me hope that legislators do care about things like this is that they were very willing to talk to me and sit with me and let me explain Kyra’s story,” said Franchetti.
The resolution (H.Con.Res.72) was introduced in the House of Representatives in July and was agreed to on Sept. 26. It has now moved on to be decided on in the Senate.
The resolution expresses the sense of Congress that child safety is the first priority of custody and parenting adjudications and courts should resolve safety risks and claims of family violence before assessing other best interest factors. It also states that quasi-scientific evidence should be admitted by courts regarding adult or child abuse allegations in custody cases and states should define required standards of expertise and experience for appointed fee-paid professionals who provide evidence to the court on abuse, trauma and behaviors of victims and perpetrators, specify requirements for the contents of such professional reports and require courts to find that any appointed professionals meet those standards. It also expresses that Congress should schedule hearings on family courts’ practices with regard to children’s safety and civil rights.
“I was there for the vote two weeks ago today and it was bittersweet,” said Franchetti. “While of course I was thrilled it passed, I really wished it passed a few years ago because I think Kyra could be alive today.”
Moving forward, Franchetti says she will bring things to New York State and figure out ways to make a difference in the state’s practices and laws. She explained that others can help make changes by calling their representatives and speak up. Franchetti said she receives phone calls from many who are staying in relationships because the court system won’t protect their children during a divorce or custody process and they are scared to leave.
“This is not the way we should be living our lives,” said Franchetti.
Franchetti will continue to tell her daughter’s story to representatives and anyone who will listen to make others aware. She explained Kyra was a big part of the Port Washington and Manhasset community, having taken Mommy and Me classes at the Parent Resource Center, gone to Blumenfeld Park, frequented the Port Washington Public Library, taken soccer classes at a Manhasset synagogue and played at Mary Jane Davies Green.
“Her murder didn’t just affect me,” said Franchetti. “It impacted so many families who knew and loved Kyra in Port and Manhasset and who have been devastated by her murder. Kyra was an amazing little girl. She was vibrant, happy and energetic. Just the day before I turned her over for the visit, she had learned to roll down a hill and was so proud of herself. She was such an independent and active toddler and to know I’m missing all those times where she would be achieving things. She deserved more.”
What do you think of this resolution? Share your thoughts with me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.