Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, plans to introduce a bill in the 2016 Legislature that expands the protections available to Idahoans seeking protection from stalkers.
“I’ve been working on this bill for over a year and I believe that there is a clear need for stronger protections against people who break the law by stalking or harassing others,” Burgoyne said in a news release.
Burgoyne, an attorney, said the need was recently highlighted when Makaela Zabel-Gravatt was shot in her North End backyard on Sept. 12, allegedly by a man who she said had been stalking her.
Boise police arrested Christopher Wirfs, of Boise, in connection with the shooting.
Family members said Zabel-Gravatt went “numerous times” to the Ada County Courthouse and to Boise police to seek a court order against Wirfs, but she was unsuccessful. Neither the police nor the prosecutor’s office will provide details on the type of protection she supposedly sought or why she did not receive it. According to the court, there is no record Zabel-Gravatt filed a petition for either a civil protection order or a restraining order against Wirfs.
From information made public, Wirfs was a client of Zabel-Gravatt’s at Ambitions Nail and Hair Studio at 6968 W. State St. in Boise, where she is a cosmetologist.
Zabel-Gravatt was released from the hospital Sept. 16, a family member said. Details on her condition were not available.
Wirfs is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Sept. 25, before Judge Michael Oths. He is being held in the Ada County Jail on $1 million bail.
“Stalking and harassment are not limited to domestic relationships and the law needs to recognize this fact,” Burgoyne said.
A civil protection order can be issued under Idaho’s domestic violence statute if there is evidence of physical injury, sexual abuse, forced imprisonment or threat of such violence. The victim must have dated, married or lived with the person, have a child in common or be related by blood, marriage or adoption.
“Most of the relationships we have with people are not domestic relationships,” Burgoyne told the Statesman. For example, Idaho’s statute does not apply to stalking involving co-workers, neighbors or friends.
In some cases there is no relationship at all. For example, when celebrities are stalked, the people typically doing the stalking do not have any relationship with the celebrity, Burgoyne explained.
“In Idaho, if we had a celebrity stalking situation, we cannot deal with it under our domestic violence statute. We cannot get domestic violence protection orders,” he said.
Burgoyne’s bill would allow people who are being stalked or harassed to get protective orders even when no domestic relationship exists. Burgoyne said his bill is an important step toward better protecting people from those who are terrorizing them.
“Of course, no law can stop all stalkers and harassers, but my bill will put these lawbreakers on the radar of law enforcement and the justice system, and give the police and judges leverage in dealing with them” Burgoyne said.