BOWLING GREEN - Just two weeks have passed since their daughter was killed, but Mike Sears and Kathy Newlove have begun channeling their grief into something they hope will help other victims of domestic violence.
They met this week with other community members to form an organization dedicated to educating people about domestic violence, changing laws, and improving communication with courts.
"I'm my daughter's voice," Mrs. Newlove said yesterday. "I have to be her voice and why waste any time? I am so angry right now, I think this is when I can get the best work done."
Alicia Castillon, 30, and her boyfriend, John C. Mitchell, 22, were shot to death March 29 in Castillon's Parker Street home.
Records show Castillon had been abused and terrorized by a former boyfriend, Craig Daniels, Jr., for years when, police say, Daniels broke into her home and killed her and Mitchell with Castillon's four children in the house.
At the time, Daniels, 34, was out of jail on a recognizance bond for a felony charge of menacing by stalking from a January incident involving Castillon.
He is now in the Wood County jail, charged with two counts of aggravated murder and one count of aggravated burglary. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Jenna Wasylyshyn, a friend of Mrs. Newlove's and wife of Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn, has agreed to be chairman of the yet-unnamed group, which also has the support of Deputy Mary Ann Robinson, a domestic violence specialist, and representatives of the Wood County Prosecutor's Office.
Mrs. Wasylyshyn said the group is in its infancy, but she would like to see it develop a Web site and work on public awareness and education about domestic violence because Castillon's case was not unique.
"This was the typical domestic violence scenario," she said. "It's the same story."
While Wood County Common Pleas Court Judge Reeve Kelsey has been criticized for reducing Daniels' $30,000 bond from Municipal Court to a personal recognizance bond, Mr. Sears said he's not pointing fingers.
"It's a systemwide failure from enforcement to judicial," he said. "There obviously needs to be something done."
A conversational English teacher who has been living in China for three years, Mr. Sears said he was disturbed to learn that all the murders that have occurred in Wood County in the last five years have been the result of domestic violence.
In most of the cases, the perpetrator was either barred from having contact with the victim by a protection order or was out of jail on bail or a recognizance bond.
Among the laws he would like to see changed is the Defense of Marriage Act that Ohio approved by voters in 2004.
It has, in some cases, prevented abusers from being charged with domestic violence if they were not married to the victim, Mr. Sears said, which means the defendants are not subject to the escalating penalties laid out in Ohio's domestic violence law.
"The act has done nothing but take away rights from people," he said.
Mrs. Newlove said other laws may need to be changed - or created. She envisions "Alicia's Law," which might create a domestic violence offender registry similar to the state's sex offender registry.
While some of their ideas would require legislative changes that could take years to accomplish, other changes could happen more immediately, Mrs. Newlove said.
County jails could notify victims of domestic violence when offenders are released, she said.
Judges should have access to a defendant's complete criminal history when deciding the question of bond, she said, and defendants who are released from jail with orders to stay away from the victim should be required to wear electronic monitoring devices.
Mr. Sears said the system could be more effective if domestic violence cases were handled exclusively by a Family or Domestic Relations Court rather than bounced from Municipal to Common Pleas Court.
"That could simplify the procedures they go through and minimize opportunities for miscommunication," he said.
Mrs. Newlove said that since her daughter's death, she has gotten more than 400 cards and letters of support - many from people she doesn't know. She wants to capitalize on that energy - and her own - to try to change things.
"I'm so angry. I'm in Mom mode," she said. "That's all that's left for me - to hope this doesn't happen to someone else - and for my grandchildren."
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