Last week state legislators took a significant step toward approving a bill designed to protect Oklahomans from acts of violence. What makes it especially meaningful for our area is the fact the impetus for the proposed legislation was the brutal death of Caitlin Wooten, an Ada High student who was killed last year after her murderer had been released on bond.

Caitlin became the victim of her mother’s former boyfriend, Jerry Don Savage, who then committed suicide. Savage had been arrested earlier for kidnapping Caitlin’s mother, but was released after paying $20,000, or 10 percent, of his $200,000 bail. Ordinarily, this high bail amount would have been enough to keep most behind bars. Most people don’t have that kind of money set aside to help keep them out of jail.

But most people aren’t Jerry Don Savage. By all accounts, Savage had a good job. Those familiar with the case say Savage ran his home frigid in the winter and allowed only one toilet flushing a day, among other things, in order to pinch pennies. His miserliness, more than anything else, gave him all the money he needed for the occasion.

His penchant for saving set him loose, rather being safely held behind bars.

Last week’s unanimous vote by Oklahoma’s State Senate Judiciary Committee to approve SB 1037 will send the measure to the full Senate to vote on it sometime during the next three weeks. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Susan Paddack, Ada, said “Caitlin’s Law” will strengthen bail laws by requiring those charged with violent crimes to prove they are not a public danger before being released on bond.

If approved, the bill would beef up victim protection order laws in Oklahoma that would mirror federal statutes. It would also authorize an electronic notification system that would be a statewide system to notify victims as offenders move through the criminal justice system.

As Paddack said, no law can guarantee such a nightmare will never happen again, but SB 1037 is a giant step forward.

We commend Sen. Paddack for pushing this measure through the legislature.

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