OKLAHOMA CITY — The state Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that supporters claim will protect Oklahomans from senseless acts of violence.

Senate Bill 1037, the so-called “Caitlin’s Law,” is authored by state Sen. Susan Paddack, D-Ada.

Sixteen-year-old Ada High School student Caitlin Wooten was the victim of a murder-suicide Sept. 24 by her mother’s former boyfriend, 47-year-old Jerry Don Savage of Latta. Faye Sliger, 51, Ada, is being held without bail in connection with the tragedy.

Savage had been arrested earlier for kidnapping Donna Wooten, Caitlin’s mother, but had been released on bail. Savage had picked Caitlin Wooten up at school Sept. 23. The bodies were discovered the following day after a massive manhunt.

Donna Wooten testified at Tuesday’s Senate hearing.

“This bill will not bring back my daughter,” she told the committee. “But if it protects just one Oklahoma family from going through what my family has suffered, if it can help create a safer Oklahoma, then this bill is the greatest thing we could ever do to honor the memory of Caitlin.”

Paddack said Donna Wooten has demonstrated extraordinary strength during the aftermath of her daughter’s tragic death.

“I couldn’t hold back tears when Donna testified,” Paddack said. “Here it was Valentine’s Day and she was talking about her daughter’s murder. It takes courage to turn tragedy into triumph. This family has shown great courage throughout this process. I am proud that this bill is one step closer to becoming law since it passed with overwhelmingly bipartisan support. It will honor the memory of Caitlin Wooten and help us create a safer Oklahoma for all our families.”

The tragedy brought nationwide attention after members of the family, local law enforcement officials and Paddack appeared on the “Dr. Phil” television program.

Paddack said she expected the full Senate to vote on the bill during the next three weeks. If approved, it will be sent to the House for consideration, and then on to the governor. She said if changes are made in the House, the measure will be sent back to the Senate for approval.

Paddack, Senate majority whip who represents District 13, which includes Pontotoc, Coal, Garvin and Hughes counties, said SB 1037 would enact major reforms that are tough on crime and smart for Oklahoma families. She said “Caitlin’s Law” would strengthen bail laws by requiring those charged with violent crimes to prove they are not a public danger before being released on bond. The bill, if approved, would also beef up victim protection order laws in Oklahoma that would mirror federal statutes. Also, SB 1037 would authorize an electronic notification system — Victim Identification and Notification Everyday. VINE would be a statewide system to notify victims as offenders move through the criminal justice system.

Paddack said she was shocked when she heard of the teen-ager’s murder and became determined to seek possible remedies to prevent similar tragedies from reoccurring. She said no law can guarantee that such a nightmare will never happen again, but SB 1037 is a giant step forward.

“I told the Wooten family that I didn’t know where this journey would take us, but we would certainly take that journey together,” Paddack said. “So today (Tuesday) we stand here together one step closer to making the ‘Caitlin Wooten Act’ a reality. It’s the right thing to do and I applaud the members of the judiciary committee for their support of this bill, and I commend this family for the dedication they have for making a difference in the lives of so many Oklahomans.”

While the bill must pass more hurdles before it becomes law, Paddack is optimistic about the outcome.

“I can’t imagine this bill being held up for political purposes because I believe every legislator in this building wants to do their part in preventing another family from suffering a loss like the one of Caitlin,” she said. “Senate Bill 1037 is tough on crime and it is a strong bill for Oklahoma families and Oklahoma communities.”

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