EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Was the tragedy preventable if there were previous reports of domestic violence? Dona Ana County Sheriff speaks on domestic violence cases in the county and systemic issues.

Dona Ana County Sheriff Kim Stewart explained that domestic violence cases in the county are a great issue and while they don’t make the majority of calls that deputies respond to, she said those calls usually take longer than others because of their complicated nature.

Stewart said the current system in place to deal with domestic violence cases, and that includes the entire criminal justice system in New Mexico, has its faults.

The Red Flag Law and courts processing the domestic violence cases are showing to be ineffective in preventing domestic violence and sometimes, unfortunately, the tragedies such as the one that occurred over the weekend in Las Cruces, Sheriff said.

On Sunday, September 18, deputies responded to Kimberly and Robert Yacone’s residence in Picacho Hills where Kimberly was found shot dead.

Robert Yacone, owner of Forghedabaoudit Southwest Italian restaurant was charged with first degree murder of his wife and was shot by deputies during the response.

He was a previously convicted felon and his wife had filed for restraining orders against him prior, as well as filed for divorce in February of 2022.

Deputies reported they found several weapons in Yacone’s residence, according to the affidavit.

Sheriff said she had seen several domestic violence cases that have gone up to court, but noticed the alleged abusers were not asked about possession of weapons, despite the Red Flag Law put in place in New Mexico in 2020.

“They are on the form for a reason, so that they are asked and if the commissioners are not asking those questions how do we know there are guns?,” said Sheriff Stewart.

Another issue is that her office is unable to find out about possession of weapons unless they are registered, but besides that, the federal arms dealers do not have to report every gun purchase, only purchase of silencers or multiple purchases at once, for instance, she explained.

This Red Flag Law allows the court to request surrendering of one’s weapons if they are deemed unsafe for themselves or others.

The same can be petitioned by a family member or any other person if they feel the person owning a weapon is dangerous.

“Is this a perfect system, absolutely not, there has to be something in New Mexico that we address domestic violence seriously and I don’t know what that is,” Sheriff Stewart said.

She said the change also starts in the community, by people reporting if they see abuse happening.

La Casa, a Las Cruces shelter for domestic violence victims, is currently at capacity, according to their director of support services, Flor Gonzalez.

“People seek services every day, so we are constantly looking at being able to assist people and helping them every single person that comes ha s a different situation, so we are always open to helping anyone who comes,” said Gonzalez.

The shelter offers numerous services and support for victims.

“We can begin as a criminal justice system to look at our own role in these things and try to improve the system, and try to do it when it’s not a crisis,” said Stewart.

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