Amy Castillo's husband killed their 3 children
Updated: Friday, 26 Feb 2010, 12:26 PM EST
Published : Thursday, 25 Feb 2010, 7:15 PM EST
BY SHERRI LY/myfoxdc
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - When Amy Castillo's husband, Mark, killed her three children nearly two years ago she knew he'd carried out his threat.
"He said well really the worse thing I could do is kill the children and not you so you have to live without them," Castillo said.
Fifteen months earlier she told a Montgomery County judge the same story but he denied her final protective order because there wasn't "clear and convincing evidence."
Castillo says she was devastated.
The interim protective order had already angered her estranged husband, who suffered from mental illness and transcripts show had planned to violently end his own life.
"I think he would have had to have hurt them before, in the past, actually physically injured them. All along I felt that you have to actually hurt someone or prove you sexually abused them before you can get any help," Castillo said.
It's happened over and over to victims of abuse in Maryland. Victims try to get a protective order only to be denied sometimes with deadly consequences.
Yvette Cade, a Prince George's County woman was burned four years ago by her ex-husband after a judge removed a protective order as well.
In Castillo's case she said, "It went from threats to now they're dead. There wasn't anything in between."
So today Castillo went to Annapolis to fight for the protection her children six-year-old Anthony, four-year-old Austin and two-year-old Athena did not get.
She testified during a House Judiciary Committee hearing in support of a bill that lowers the standard for protective orders to a "preponderance of evidence."
Maryland is the only state that requires the standard of proof for a protective order be "clear and convincing evidence."
At least three times previously, lawmakers in Annapolis have tried to lower this standard, making it easier for someone to get a protective order. Each time it failed.
"People are in dangerous situations and in Amy's case, the dear children lost their lives because of our high standard of proof in Maryland. That's unacceptable," said Delegate Sue Hecht (D) Frederick County, the bill's main sponsor.
Historically, the judiciary committee has been hesitant to change laws.
It took Hecht seven years to get a child sex abuse crime of violence law passed and expects another tough fight on this one.
She ran a domestic violence center for 12 years.
"We had a woman shot in the face of my home county. This year she had been denied a protective order in two counties before she got shot in the face," Hecht said.
No word on when the committee will vote, but the Frederick lawmaker, is hopeful she'll have the votes to get the bill out of committee this time. Even with a protective order critics say enforcement is sometimes lacking but at least it gives victims another tool.
"You have to have something in place where not only the woman feels like she's being back up but there's teeth behind that," said Eileen King, Regional Director for Justice for Children-DC, an advocacy group for children and families.
"I never tried to get a protective order again," Castillo said after failing the first time, "because I felt like not only was it not helpful, it was useless."
By seeking the protective order, "it made him much more angry," Castillo said and without it she had nothing to stop him.
Castillo says she can look back now and say "I told you so" and wonders if she got the protective order would her children be alive.
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