Can A Friend's Tragic Death Help Pass Domestic Violence Law?

Eileen McCay is hoping change will come from tragedy. Her close friend Colleen Brownell and Brownell's stepsister, Alysia McCloskey, deserve it, she says.

The two were at McCloskey's home in Collingswood on Dec. 30 when they were stabbed to death, prosecutors say.

Brownell's ex-fiance Mark Lyczak, 45, of Burlington City, is chargedwith their murders and the attempted murder of a third woman. He has been in the Camden County Jail ever since.

Brownell moved in with McCloskey, a county away from her ex, as she made plans to move to Florida. She had gotten a restraining order against Lyczak about five months before the incident and he'd been involved in a previous domestic incident at the home, prosecutors say.

"She did everything she could to keep him away, and it wasn't enough," McCay told a reporter after Lyczak's detention hearing in Camden on Friday.

Now, McCay is hoping that Brownell's story will bring attention and finally lead to the passing of a long-discussed domestic violence law that she says could have prevented their killings.

Lisa's Law, named after Letizia "Lisa" Zindell of Toms River, would require domestic violence offenders who violate a restraining order to submit to electronic monitoring that could alert authorities if they were headed toward violating their restraining order again.

Zindell was beaten and strangled to death on Aug. 13, 2009 by her ex-fiance Frank Frisco, just one day after he was released from jail for violating a restraining order Zindell had filed against him.

He regularly violated the restraining order prior to that, according to previous reports.

The bill would establish a four-year pilot program monitoring domestic violence offenders first in Ocean County, and the state Attorney General would evaluate the program each year in reports to the Governor and the Legislature. Those reports could also recommend whether the program should be expanded to other counties.

The bill was initially sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Daniel R. Benson, Thomas P. Giblin and Gabriela Mosquera. But former Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the bill twice during his tenure. 

Singleton, now a state senator, told McCay that he would re-introduce the bill now that Gov. Phil Murphy is in office. The bill was approved by the Judiciary Committee and will go before the Appropriations Committee and then the General Assembly, according to the senator's website.

"My hope is that we waste no more time and have this placed on the agenda ASAP," McCay wrote in a letter to senators who sponsored the bill. "I am fully convinced if this law was passed a couple of years ago, both of the victims would be alive today."

At the detention hearing, which would determine whether Lyczak could remain free before a trial or plea, public defender Meg Butler said that Lyczak denies all charges. She advocated for him to be released to the care of his relatives, who live in South Jersey.

But Assistant Camden County Prosecutor Peter Gallagher told the court that with the length of time Lyczak could face in prison -- as much as two life terms for two counts of murder and 20 additional years for the attempted murder -- the court should ensure that he cannot flee the jurisdiction.

"He is facing about as much time in prison as a criminal defendant can face," Gallagher said. He later added that the third woman nearly did not survive her injuries.

Judge Edward McBride ruled that Lyczak will remain in jail during his court proceedings due to the severity of the charges and the weight of the evidence -- police and neighbors witnessed him wielding a knife at the home in Collingswood.

The restraining order also came up during the proceedings.

"He disregarded two provisions in that order in his quest to end the life of several people. Two of which he achieved, and the third of which he nearly achieved," Gallagher said.

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