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Bill introduced at the Capitol could forever change Colorado’s domestic violence laws

Measure comes after a yearlong Denver7 Investigation
ty tesoriero hb21-1099
Posted at 5:44 PM, Feb 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-20 00:45:28-05

DENVER -- Colorado lawmakers introduced legislation this week that, if passed, will forever change the state’s laws regarding domestic violence.

The bill comes after a more than year-long Denver7 Investigation into the murder of 10-year-old Ty Tesoriero in September 2019.

“I am glad to see that they’re using Ty’s story and actually pushing this bill,” said Jing Tesoriero, Ty’s mother.

The bill, HB21-1099, changes the definition of child abuse to include domestic violence in state law. The measure has bipartisan support.

“This is a critically important bill for the survival of our children,” said Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Adams County, one of the lawmakers backing the bill. “We need to be able to protect our children from domestic abuse. Without a definition, we have no mechanism for protection.”

The bill will also lead to better training for caseworkers and mandatory reporters when it comes to identifying all types of domestic violence, including psychological abuse and coercive power or control.

“Really specific training is necessary in this area because it’s easy to make a mistake. Who’s holding control over whom and how do we protect the child in the process?” said Michaelson Jenet.

Ty was murdered by his father, Anthony Tesoriero. A Denver7 Investigates series of reports showed how the system failed to protect him. It uncovered a Department of Human Services ill-equipped to manage domestic violence abusers, especially when that abuse doesn’t come with bumps and bruises, as was the case with Jing and Ty.

Anthony was a convicted domestic violence abuser and continued to have coercive power and control over Jing and Ty.

The murder-suicide happened hours after a contentious court hearing in which Anthony learned he was going to lose custody of his son. But despite that, a Douglas County judge let Ty have one more night with his dad. It was a decision that cost Ty his life, and Jing Tesoriero her son.

Christine Garcia was Jing’s therapist and testified that day in court.

“I lived in fear that whole day because I knew that we had been added to his radar and he was a scary individual,” Garcia said.

Garcia said the judge’s decision to send Ty home with his dad following the court hearing was unfortunate, but said there were many events leading up to it that could have been done differently.

“There’s nuances, there’s issues of coercive control that are incredibly difficult to understand,” she said.

It’s a gap in the system the legislation recently introduced at the Capitol now hopes to fix.

“I am very confident that we will pass this bill this year,” said Michaelson Jenet. “Stories like yours and highlighting Ty help us to see where there are holes in the system.”

Rep. Kim Ransom, R-Douglas County, is another sponsor of the bill. She lives in Lone Tree and remembers Ty’s story.

“That case was within a couple miles of my home,” she said. “There’s a little boy that will never be able to grow up.”

For Jing and Garcia, they said the bill is a step in the right direction.

“But there’s 50 more steps that need to be taken,” Garcia said.

They both want to make sure there’s follow-through to fix the system that failed to protect Ty.

“I wanted to see the positive changes,” Jing said, adding that she believes Ty would have wanted her to continue fighting for him.

The bill has broad bipartisan support and will go before a House committee on Tuesday. Sen. Jim Smallwood, R-Parker, and Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada, are also sponsors.

“We are raising the bar to make sure that what happened to Ty doesn’t happen again,” Rep. Michaelson Jenet said.