By Rachel Matta and Clarissa Serrano
Following the murder of Michelle Dorsey and District Attorney George Gascon’s decision to not seek life in prison for her assailant, the Santa Clarita City Council discussed domestic violence across the Santa Clarita Valley in their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday.
The discussion follows the death of Dorsey, a Saugus mother of three young children, who is suspected of being stabbed to death in her own home by her estranged husband almost two weeks ago, while her children slept upstairs.
Dorsey’s estranged husband was arrested after fleeing the scene in the victim’s vehicle and evading police until he was found by law enforcement near the town of Neenach, where a standoff took place for several hours, Sheriff’s officials said.
He was later charged with several felonies including first-degree murder, attempted kidnapping, residential burglary, evading law enforcement and resisting a law enforcement officer, according to arrest logs.
“The discussion on what the punishment should be for someone who drives for hours from out of state who had a restraining order and stabs his ex-wife in her own home is now limited to the guides of equity, fairness or some other descriptor that will only pour salt in the wounds of the victims who have to live with the results of this person’s actions every single day,” said Jason Gibbs, councilmember at the council meeting.
District Attorney George Gascon’s office did not file special enhancements on Dorsey’s murder case, which would provide the possibility for her estranged husband to be sentenced to life in prison without parole if he was found guilty on all five charges.
With the case grounds set by the DA’s office, Dorsey will be eligible for parole in 20 years if convicted on all charges, according to officials.
“When the response you see from the DA’s office to family members and our community deserving an explanation is simply ‘the charges filed are consistent with our policy,’ Gascon’s policies are telling the public that a man can be tried for the cold-blooded murder of his wife and leave their children of three parentless,” Gibbs said. “He has destroyed justice from Michelle Dorsey.”
Prior to the murder, Dorsey had filed a restraining order against her estranged husband with her children included in the order, according to court documents.
“Understanding the prevalence and true magnitude of the impacts of Intimate Partner Violence in Los Angeles County is significantly challenging due to both the inconsistency in definitions and under-reporting of incidents, as well as problems associated with regard to the availability, accuracy, and reliability of data sources,” reads a statement from the Los Angeles County Domestic Violence Council (LACDVC).
Twenty percent of women and 13% of men ages 18 and older in Los Angeles County reported having been physically or sexually abused by an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to the LACDVC.
“I’ve worked some years back to complete a women’s local protective shelter and I can tell you that no woman with children or even by herself will ever feel that she will be protected and safe to leave a domestic violence situation,” said Mayor Pro Tem Laurene Weste. “This has come home to Santa Clarita Valley. This is our worst nightmare, what has happened to Michelle Dorsey.”
During the council meeting, Gibbs as well as Weste expressed concerns that not seeking the highest conviction could give domestic abusers the idea that their actions may not be held accountable.
“Personally, having family members who have been lucky enough to survive brutal attacks from estranged husbands who are still here today by sheer luck,” said Gibbs, “never get another day in this world where the smallest of things can trigger the memory of these horrid acts.”
The council decided to send a five-signature letter to ask the Santa Clarita Board of Supervisors for support in working towards getting some enhancements added to the case.
For safety, shelter and support services for survivors of domestic violence in Santa Clarita, click here.