Kentucky legislator vows to review restraining order law

Alisha Waters, pictured with her niece, brother and mother.
Alisha Waters, pictured with her niece, brother and mother.

FORT THOMAS, KY (FOX19) - As Alisha Waters lay on the floor of the building where she worked, barely clinging to life Tuesday morning, she managed to tell the police chief that it was her estranged husband who had shot her five times. Three months and three weeks earlier, Waters had asked Kenton County Judge Lisa Bushelman for an order of protection against him. The judge denied her request.

"I'm in fear for the safety of myself and two dogs," she said in her own handwriting on the application.

She wrote that her estranged husband, Dennis Joseph Mathis II, was being "verbally abusive" and had called her "up to 186 times in a matter of 2 weeks." However, in the petition for the protective order, Waters didn't say that Mathis had ever directly threatened her life or threatened to hurt her.

"Typically with respect to domestic violence, there's got to be physical abuse or a credible threat of violence," said Theresa Singleton, the director of protection from abuse at YWCA Greater Cincinnati.

FOX19 has tried repeatedly to contact Judge Bushelman. On Thursday, we went to the Kenton County Courthouse and were told Bushelman wouldn't be commenting. Instead, we were given the name of a court spokesperson in Frankfort, Kentucky.

One Kentucky attorney says Bushelman was only following the law.

"Unfortunately, the evidence that the woman presented was simply insufficient under Kentucky law to grant a restraining order," attorney Lisa Wells told FOX19.

Under Kentucky law, a person applying for a restraining order must prove they fear for their lives and there is an imminent threat against them.

"Given the same set of facts, have to make the same decision again because under Kentucky law, there just wasn't enough evidence to grant it," Wells said.

In Kentucky, according to the city of Louisville, a victim must have experienced sexual abuse, physical abuse, or the threat of physical abuse in order to qualify for a protective order. However, had Waters lived on the Ohio side of the Tri-State, she may have been able to get an order of protection for stalking because of all the texts Mathis was sending her.

It's a law Kentucky State Representative Adam Koenig said needs another look.

"Any time something like this happens, it's a good opportunity to go back and review and make sure the laws we have fits society today," Koenig said.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, you may call the YWCA's hotline at (513) 872-9259 or toll-free at (888) 872-9259. The YWCA operates a women's shelter at an undisclosed location in Hamilton County. If it is full, Singleton says that her staff contacts other shelters in nearby counties to find a place to keep domestic violence victims and their children safe.

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