New law aims to prevent domestic violence with online protective order registry

Monica's Law goes into effect Sept. 1

SAN ANTONIO – A new Texas law aims to make it easier to prevent domestic violence.

Monica's Law, named after an Odessa woman who was killed by an ex-boyfriend, will create an online statewide registry of people who have protective orders against them. 

Jon Nielsen believes his daughter would still be alive if she knew about the previous protective orders her assailant already had against him. 

Nielsen knew something was off one night in 2015 when his daughter, Monica Nielsen Deming, sent him a text.

"It just had a creepy feeling when I got that text saying, 'I love you,'" Nielsen said.

The text came the same night Deming's ex-boyfriend, Brandon Leyva, killed her in Odessa.

Nielsen, a former Odessa police officer, said two hours after the text, his daughter called him, saying Leyva was forcing himself through her sliding glass door. 

By the time Nielsen and police arrived, Deming was dead. 

"She died in front of her Christmas tree," Nielsen said. 

Her ex-boyfriend shot and killed himself after shooting Deming.

Nielsen later discovered other women had previously filed protective orders against Leyva.

"There was no central database for us to find out," Nielsen said. "Otherwise, she wouldn't have gotten involved with the fella."

The murder of his daughter is why Nielson devoted himself to passing Monica's law, which creates an online public state registry of people with protective orders, similar to the sex-offender registry. 

The law passed after Nielson gathered several thousand signatures in an online petition and worked with Odessa state Rep. Brooks Landgraf to push it through the last Texas legislative session. 

Local district judge Mary Lou Alvarez urges not just victims -- but anyone at the start of a relationship -- to use the registry when it's made available. 

Alvarez said the registry will also show victims of abuse that they are not the ones to blame. 

"Am I the reason for my own abuse?" Alvarez said. "And this will be one more tool to say, 'No.' Check the registry, see what the past is, see what the history indicates."

Nielson said his daughter would be proud of the law he believes will save lives. 

"The law is part of Monica's legacy, but it will go on to save others from a similar fate," he said.

When the law goes into effect Sept. 1, the Office of Court Administration will begin to build the database and educate Texas counties on how to use the registry. 

The legislative budget allocated $350,000 to build the registry. The director of the Court of Administration hopes the registry will completed by June 2020. 

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