After death of Vancouver mom, child, advocates say laws should do more to protect DV victims

Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 7:13 PM PDT
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VANCOUVER Wash. (KPTV) - Survivors of domestic violence say the death of a Vancouver, Wash. woman and her child could have been prevented.

On Wednesday, Meshay Melendez and Layla Stewart were found dead near Washougal, Wash. after being missing for more than a week. Melendez’s estranged ex-boyfriend, Kirkland Warren was arrested as a person of interest in her and her daughter’s disappearance. The Clark County Prosecutor’s office said Warren has not been charged with any crimes related to their deaths at this time. But he is no stranger to law enforcement.

RELATED: Missing mom, daughter found dead in rural Washington

According to the Arkansas Department of Public Safety, Warren was arrested in December of 2017 and charged with the murder of a Pine Bluff man. FOX 12 reached out to the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney in the state, Kyle Hunter, with questions about this case, but he was unavailable at the time. More recently, Vancouver Police arrested Warren was arrested on March 2nd, accused of domestic violence towards Melendez. Court documents outline physical altercations where Warren choke Melendez and shot at her in December of 2022. He was released on bail about a week later. Days after that, Melendez and Stewart went missing.

The Clark County Prosecutors Office declined to comment on Warren’s initial accusations of domestic violence at the beginning of March. But Kathleen Stevens, founder of the non-profit, You Can Stop Domestic Abuse, believes that the initial arrest of Warren could have saved Melendez and Stewart.

“With this fellow, with Meshay and her daughter, why was he even given a chance to have bail?” Stevens said.

Stevens said the Tiffany Hill Act should have shielded Melendez and Stewart from Warren. This law was passed by the Washington State Legislature in 2020 after Vancouver mother, Tiffany Hill, was killed by her husband and red flags of domestic violence were missed.  Now, if someone is accused of domestic violence, the perpetrator would be required to wear a GPS monitoring device. The victim would be alerted if the perpetrator was within 1,500 feet. But it’s unclear why the Tiffany Hill Act was not applied when Warren was initially arrested and why his previous criminal history was not considered.

“She would have had a warning because that’s a damn good bracelet,” Stevens said.

SEE ALSO: Deputies still investigating death of Corvallis infant after father’s arrest

Washington State Senator Lynda Wilson sponsored the law when it was only a bill three years ago. She sent FOX 12 a statement that reads Clark County has done a great job at putting the Tiffany Hill Act into action. The senator said Warren’s bail deserves more attention and she’s introduced a bill that would keep domestic violence subjects in jail without bail in certain circumstances. In her statement she said:

“Protecting [domestic violence] victims should not be a partisan issue, we should be able to do more without waiting another four years or having to name bills after murdered young mothers.”

“The name of our nonprofit is you can stop domestic abuse,” Stevens said. “It’s going to take you working to stop domestic abuse. If you see something, do something. If you hear something, do something!”