Grundy Co. program requires domestic assault offenders to wear G - WSMV News 4

Grundy Co. program requires domestic assault offenders to wear GPS monitors

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Every suspect accused of a domestic offense in Grundy County must wear a GPS device as part of their bond conditions. (WSMV) Every suspect accused of a domestic offense in Grundy County must wear a GPS device as part of their bond conditions. (WSMV)

As family members of murder victim Lacy Kelley cope with the unimaginable tragedy, they’re remembering a young mother so full of life.

“She could walk into a room and light it up with her smile,” her cousin Sierra Kelly said. “I’m going to miss that.”

Kelley’s accused killer and ex-boyfriend Darnell Wiggins was arrested for aggravated domestic assault just two weeks before the murder, even violating his restraining order by showing up at her house, but he was never caught by police.

Maury County prosecutor Brent Cooper said multiple failures by law enforcement and the justice system led to her death.

“In an ideal situation, if you have offenders being released after serious domestic violence charges then they should be monitored closely,” Cooper said.

Monitoring Technology

Just over 90 miles from Columbia in Altamont, Grundy County Sheriff Clint Shrum has been tackling domestic assaults head-on since he took office two years ago.

“We realized that we had an issue,” Shrum told Channel 4. “That’s when we started looking at the use of GPS monitoring to ensure victim safety in Grundy County.”

For the past 18 months, every suspect accused of domestic assault, aggravated domestic assault or stalking in Grundy County has been required to wear a GPS monitor as part of their bond conditions.

The offenders are monitored by Tennessee Recovery & Monitoring, a private company which also provides the victims with a victim beacon, keeping track of how close they are to each other.

“A mile, two miles, buffer zone, whatever we set up, if that bracelet gets in range of that zone the victim as well as my company is notified via text message and email,” added TR&M vice president Scott Cranmore. “Grundy County has definitely paved the way of educating and letting the victims know there’s something out there for you as well.  It’s not just for the aggressor.”

Signs of Improvement

After 18 months of the program, Sheriff Shrum said the rate of suspects who are re-offending has dropped significantly.  Now just 3 percent of those fitted with a GPS monitor have been arrested again for the same crime.

“That’s what we’re after,” Shrum added. “We don’t want them to repeat.”

The program has also shed light on how common domestic assaults really are in Grundy County.

Since it was implemented, the number of annual domestic assault calls to 911 has quadrupled.

“What we found was now people were confident in the fact that they could report domestic violence and action being taken to protect that victim,” Shrum said.

Offender-Pay System

For years, State Representative G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, has fought for statewide GPS monitoring to protect domestic violence victims, but each time his bills come up in committee they’re voted down or tabled due to concerns about the financial burden to the state.

In Grundy County, offenders have to pay $10 per day for the device in order to stay out of jail while they wait for their case to be heard.

“If you have a bond that’s set at $50,000 and you can’t raise the cash, you sit in jail,” Hardaway said. “If you can’t afford the money to pay for this monitor, you ought to sit in jail.”

Now Hardaway is using Lacy Kelley’s story and Grundy County’s program to convince lawmakers change must happen for these victims.

“We have the way,” he said. “If we get some courage up here on the hill and finally put legislation in place that will statewide protect women and their constitutional rights then we’ll have something that we can call justice for women.”

If you are a victim of domestic violence and need help, contact Traci Cook with Center of Hope in Columbia at 931-381-8580.

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