A bill pushed for by a Clark County mom calling for tougher penalties for people who assault and permanently disable children has passed in the Ohio Statehouse.
Randi Shepherd and her 13-year-old daughter Destiny were in the gallery when the bill, Destiny’s Law, passed the House by an 84-1 vote on Wednesday, a victory 11 years in the making.
“I was shocked. I’m excited. It was probably one of the biggest moments of my life,” Shepherd said. “Took me 11 years.”
Destiny was 16 months old when she suffered brain damage from a skull fracture after being shaken and thrown against a wall by Terrance King, Shepherd’s then boyfriend.
King was convicted of felonious assault and child endangering and sentenced to eight years in prison. According to court records, he shook and threw Destiny against the wall of a New Carlisle apartment, injuring the infant as her mother was at the grocery store getting milk.
Destiny was rushed to Dayton Children’s Hospital and put on life support; she wasn’t expected to live.
After two weeks in a coma, Destiny woke up a totally different child, her mother said. The beating caused severe brain damage.
“Destiny received a life sentence while her attacker received eight years,” Shepherd said. “She has to pay the consequences for a crime she never committed when her attacker is able to do things without thought or consideration.”
King was released from state prison in 2014.
First introduced in 2007, Destiny’s Law would would require an additional mandatory sentence of six years for anyone convicted of felony violence against a child younger than 10 that leaves the child with a permanent disability.
Republican state Sen. Bob Hackett, who represents Clark County, and state Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield, said the permanent disability Destiny suffers and the sentence King received pushed them to support previous bills over the years and to eventually sponsor this year’s bill.
“The reaction to the perpetrator really upset me and just to see a young victim permanently disabled because a fit of violence,” Hackett said.
Koehler said he first learned of the bill in 2013 and promised to make it a key issue when he got into office.
“It’s a great triumph. It’s a wonderful bill,” Koehler said.
The lawmakers said criminal justice bills are difficult to get through the legislature and it was important to strike the right balance with everyone involved.
“When you get into a criminal justice bill, there’s a lot of work involved, a lot of parties,” Hackett said. “I am thrilled. I’m really very happy it passed.”
Koehler said the proposed law has taken time, but it’s been worth it. “We passed a good bill, finally,” he said.
Shepherd hopes that once the bill is law, it will give justice to other families.
“It’s been a struggle. There’s meetings, voting, it stalls, the bill expires, it’s been a really tough road,” Shepherd said.
The bill is headed back to the Senate for a concurrence vote and could be on the governor’s desk before the end of the year.