OLYMPIA, Wash. — Redmond’s police chief pushed to strengthen Washington state’s stalking laws days after a suspected stalker killed a couple in the eastside city.
Police Chief Darrell Lowe testified before state senators Tuesday on House Bill 1696, which would make it easier to prosecute stalking cases.
Under current law, a victim must prove that the stalker creates a fear of injury, which prosecutors say can be hard to prove. The proposed law would lower that standard calling for proof that a stalker has created "substantial emotional distress."
Rep. Michelle Caldier is also backing the proposed legislation after being stalked for two years by a man she never met.
“He showed up to my father’s house three times. My father’s disabled. I’m incredibly concerned not only for my safety but for his safety,” Rep. Caldier, (R ) 26th district.
Caldier said her stalker recently plead guilty and is awaiting sentencing next week where he could spend 14 to 17 months behind bars.
“Once we served him, the first thing he did was send me a text message asking if I ever really loved him, because he thinks he's in a relationship with me, but I'd never met him,” said Rep. Caldier.
The creator of the proposed bill said the most common type of stalking is from a current or former intimate partner and said last year only 24 stalking cases had convictions.
Caldier said her stalker is a repeat offender and doesn’t want anyone else to go through the same thing.
“This experience has made me realize how important it is to make sure that we have all survivors of stalkers, we make them safe, we can make them as safe as possible,” Rep. Caldier said.
The bill would also repeal the crime of cyberstalking.
Lowe said the killing of Mohammed Milad Naseri and his wife Zohreh Sadeghi illustrates the need for stronger stalking laws.
"That fear is real as is the emotional distress that is caused upon the victim and their families, not to mention on the investigators that are handling these crimes as well," Lowe said during his testimony.
In the Redmond case, police believe Sadeghi met the suspected stalker through the voice chat app Clubhouse. Their interactions intensified, and Sadeghi sought help from police in December and mid-January.
The Redmond prosecutor obtained a protection order against the stalker. However, the order had not been served because the whereabouts of the stalker, who was a long-haul truck driver from Texas, were unknown.
The bill passed unanimously out of the state House of Representatives on Feb. 27. The bill's sponsor is optimistic it will pass out of the state Senate as well.
If it is signed into law, the bill would go into effect 90 days after the adjournment of the session.