DANVILLE – Kenneth and Kathy Divan were prepared to take their grandchildren and leave the state when they heard that their son-in-law, who was accused of murdering their daughter, could get out of jail.
"We were concerned about him getting out," said Kathy Divan, whose son-in-law, Kenneth Gray, 34, of Newtown, faces first-degree murder charges in the shooting death of their daughter, Kimberly Gray, 34. "We were concerned for our grandchildren and our own safety."
In October, the Divan family publicly protested a court decision to set Gray's bond at $1.5 million. He had been held without bond since September, when he was arrested for his wife's murder at their Newtown home.
Mrs. Gray died as a result of receiving 15 gunshot wounds. Separated from her husband, she had returned to the house that day to retrieve some items.
Proposed legislation, which has already passed the Illinois House and is currently moving through the state Senate, would give courts an 11-point checklist when considering whether to grant bail to a person charged in a domestic violence case.
Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville, is a chief co-sponsor of HB 4649. He said the Gray case emphasizes the need to closely examine circumstances surrounding the alleged crime and the attitude of the accused when considering bond.
The bill spells out the 11 points that the court and prosecuting attorneys should focus on in bond hearings. Some of the 11 already overlap state law, which also spells out what should be considered in setting bond for a defendant. But this legislation specifically addresses bond in domestic violence cases.
"This is a reasonable bill that sets out some parameters and may prevent some of the anxiety that people in Vermilion County went through," said Black, referring to the Divan family and friends. "And at the same time, it doesn't say the defendant can't have bail. It just says we would like you to focus on some factors. What we're trying to do is formalize the process just a little bit so that things that may not have been considered will be considered."
In the Gray case, Black said, the seventh and eighth points would have been key. Seven refers to the severity of the alleged crime and eight refers to the status of the relationship.
Gray allegedly shot his wife 15 times, and they were reportedly separated at the time of her death.
"That would indicate pure rage," Black said.
Sue Davis works with victims of domestic violence as the legal administrator at Your Family Resource Center in Danville. She said the legislation would be great, because the more information provided to a judge, the more informed they can be in setting bond.
Davis said that often a person with a history of domestic violence appears before a judge, but it's not the same judge as in the person's past cases.
"The more information judges have about prior history, the better decisions they can make on bond at that time," Davis said. "It definitely would be a good piece of legislation."
If this becomes law, Black said the ultimate decision in bond hearings still rests with the judge.
"If you take all of these points or any one of them, the state's attorney could ask for no bail, and if the judge was convinced, the judge could decide that there would be no bail. But the judge doesn't have to."
Black said the bill is now making its way through the state Senate, where it's sponsored by a legislator who is a former police chief. Black said he hopes it will come up for a vote next week and be sent on to the governor for his signature.
Divan said she's aware of the legislation and that it would be referred to as Kim's Law if approved.
"We've talked to the children about it," she said. Divan, along with her husband, has permanent custody of their three grandchildren, two girls and a boy, ages 13, 7 and 11. "And as many women as there are murdered, and men, that for this to be referred to as Kim's Law is such an honor and a legacy for their mom."