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'The time has come.' Supporters tell Ohio lawmakers why strangulation should be made a felony

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Posted at 6:30 PM, Jun 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-22 20:00:18-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — During a hearing Tuesday afternoon, Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee members heard testimony from proponents of S.B. 90, a bill to make strangulation a felony in Ohio.

The hearing comes one month after a News 5 report found Ohio is just one of two states that does not recognize strangulation as a felony, a violent act that is often part of domestic violence and sexual assault cases, and that studies have found is also a precursor to murder.

RELATED: Betrayed: How OH fails to protect the public from some of its most dangerous criminals

What proponents said

During the hearing, Toledo resident Paula Walters was one of several supporters who explained the dangers of strangulation to lawmakers.

Being strangled by her ex-boyfriend in 2006 left Paula with a permanent brain injury.

“I spend two hours each day working my brain so I can appear as I do to people today. Just fine. Normal," she said. "Anyone who can stand before you and tell you that strangulation should not be a felony has clearly never encountered the act. "

Paula Walters testified in front of OH lawmakers for the fifth time Tuesday on the dangers and consequences of strangulation. An incident in 2006 left her with a permanent brain injury.

"This is a law that would help protect the citizens of Ohio from the most dangerous people in society. The people who do an act that silently screams to the public, I am a future murderer," Walters said.

What we found

Other supporters also echoed what News 5 found in our investigation. Stranglers don't only murder their intimate partners. Studies have linked stranglers to the murder of police officers and mass shootings.

Among them:

  • June 12, 2016: Omar Mateen, Pulse Nightclub shooting, Orlando, Florida
  • November 5, 2017: Devin Patrick Kelley, First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs, Texas
  • August 4, 2019: Connor Betts, (near) Ned Peppers Bar, Dayton, Ohio

Medical experts said being strangled for just seconds can increase the risk of strokes and seizures, and can cause permanent injuries and death.

Strangulation is also common.

Sandy Parker, Director Of Services, Rape Crisis Center of Summit and Medina Counties, said many of the survivors she encounters were strangled.

“The last three General Assemblies could not get it done. The time has come and I hope this committee is willing to prioritize this legislation," Parker told lawmakers.

What's next

An amendment was introduced Tuesday to make the legislation more likely to pass. It gives judges discretion during sentencing, instead of imposing a mandatory minimum sentence for strangulation.

OH Sen. Nathan Manning (R-District 13) said it is unlikely the bill will receive a committee vote prior to the legislature's summer break, which begins next week.

Manning said he hopes to work on the bill over the summer, including drafting language that would allow the legislation to apply to more strangulation victims. Right now, the law would only apply domestic violence survivors.

The bill, introduced in February, makes strangulation a third-degree felony. It is the fourth proposal to create a felony offense for strangulation in Ohio.

Similar bills were introduced in 2015, 2017 and 2019. Each time, Ohio's legislative session expired before the bills were voted on by both chambers.

RELATED: Betrayed: How OH fails to protect the public from some of its most dangerous criminals

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