EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – As Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office continues investigating the murder of Las Cruces restaurant owner Kimberly Yacone allegedly killed by her husband Robert Yacone, questions arise whether there was any way to prevent it with New Mexico’s Red Flag Law.
Robert Yacone is being charged with first degree murder of his wife Kimberly Yacone after allegedly shooting and killing her on September 18 at their home in Las Cruces.
Prior to murder charges, Robert Yacone was convicted of child abuse felony in 2014, according to the affidavit obtained by KTSM.
Dona Ana Sheriff spokeswoman Kim Stewart confirmed that his wife had also put a restraining order against him and filed for divorce in February of 2022.
The divorce petition also included a temporary domestic order against Yacone.
According to the affidavit from Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office, deputies found several weapons at the house on the day of the shooting.
New Mexico’s Red Flag Law, that was put in place in 2020 allows a family member or spouse of a person who owns weapons to file a petition to have their weapons taken away if they feel the person could harm themselves or others.
Family law attorney Sarah Van Cott from Las Cruces explained when it comes to domestic violence restraining orders, the judges will include the Red Flag Law and request the person to surrender their weapons they are in possession in.
The problem with that is the weapons are supposed to be turned in voluntarily to law enforcement, and the officers are not authorized to take the weapons away from someone’s residence.
“The laws that we have right now are not working,” said Van Cott.
When a temporary restraining order is put in place, it should take the court to schedule a hearing for a permanent hearing order within the following 10 days, explained Van Cott.
In Yacones’ case, KTSM was not able to confirm if the restraining ordder got to the hearing phase or if it was still waiting for a hearing.
Van Cott explained, if the hearing did not take place yet, it is because of a high number of domestic violence cases in the Dona Ana County 3rd Judicial District Court.
She said Dona Ana County is experiencing a shortage of judges and has less resources than, for instance Albuquerque, where a special commissioner is assigned to deal with domestic violence cases and is able to process them faster.
In case the hearing for a permanent restraining order did take place for Yacone, Van Cott explained something had to have fallen through the cracks considering Yacone already was a convicted felon and should not own any weapons in the first place.
“Not everybody registers their firearms so there is no way for law enforcement to do a true sweep of somebody’s house to see if they actually surrendered the weapons,” explained Van Cott.
It would then be possible for a judge to request for his weapons to be seized by law enforcement since Yacone was a convicted felon.
Unless there is a probable cause for the law enforcement to search someone’s home, the weapons cannot be retrieved.
“Whenever we have a situation, an unfortunate tragedy like this, I think it is time for us to take a look at the laws and see what we can do to make them work better because in this
case it definitely was not looking better,” said Van Cott.
Dona Ana County Sheriff Kim Stewart said deputies have responded to about 15 calls to Yacone’s residence this year, since divorce petition was filed. Out of those 15 two were domestic violence related calls, Stewart said.
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