CUBA, N.Y. (WIVB) – A Southern Tier family wants justice, not just for themselves, but for domestic violence victims across New York state. They think you should know about people who have a prior felony domestic violence conviction.
Linda and Thom Randolph want a domestic violence registry that would work like the sex offender registry. Every day that passes without one, they worry. They fear someone else’s son or daughter may pay the price.
Two days in 2013 changed their daughter, Shannon Pepper, forever. The fun, forgiving woman from Cattaraugus County was perhaps too trusting. “If she was your friend, she was a loyal friend,” Thom Randolph admitted.
Fresh out of her marriage, Shannon ended up at a home on Hakskell Road in Portville with a man named Tony Nevone. “He was a gigantic guy. 6′ 4″ and muscular. He actually worked in construction,” Linda Randolph recalled.
Shannon thought he was the guy who would protect her from her estranged husband. Her instinct was wrong. A text message from Shannon’s ex sent him into a two-day rage. “He broke her eye sockets, broke her upper and lower jaw, punctured her lung, and he bit her lips down, almost completely off,” Linda told News 4.
Shannon ended up in the emergency room at Olean General Hospital unrecognizable. Her mom saw her and didn’t even believe she was looking at her daughter. A tattoo helped her make the identification. “The nurse said, ‘I’m telling you right now, this is disgusting what this creature did to your daughter,'” Linda recalled.
The parents ended up sitting in the waiting room with Shannon’s attacker. Initially Nevone made up a story, claiming she had been ‘jumped’ by two girls. Deputies from the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office quickly realized the story didn’t add up. They charged him with first degree assault. Nevone pleaded guilty and should be in state prison until at least 2030.
For Shannon, recovery took agonizingly longer. Doctors transferred her to ECMC, and she spent the next month in a coma. While recovering, she wrote a note promising to fight for other victims. She said, “Thank you God for helping me through this and letting me live, and please help me be strong enough and get healthy enough to make sure that this doesn’t happen to anybody else.”
Shannon joined the fight for a domestic violence registry and was the first to sign a petition, but she never lived long enough to see the bill passed. An accidental apartment fire in Cuba silenced Shannon’s voice in 2015, leaving her parents, grieving, but unwilling to give up.
“The [domestic violence registry] law has passed in the Senate six times, but it has yet to pass in the Assembly, in fact they won’t even bring it up for a vote,” Thom Randolph remarked, the frustration clearly visible in his voice.
He says, if Shannon had a access to domestic violence registry, she would have stayed away from Nevone. “Had she known, she would have never gone near this guy. She would have never gave him that chance,” Thom suggested.
“Why is this not a law yet? It’s such a no-brainer. It’s so easy,” Linda said.
The bill faces stiff opposition from a surprising source, the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NYSCADV). The group produced a memo and sent it around the state, arguing “…domestic violence offender registries, in any format, have dangerous unintended consequences.”
News 4 spoke with Mia Thornton from Haven House in Buffalo, a member of the coalition. “In many ways it does instill a false sense of security,” Thornton suggested. She fears families would feel a false sense of security because many of attackers don’t have prior criminal records, and few would end up on a registry.
“Proposing that offenders register may also compromise victims’ privacy and may lesson victims’ likelihoods for reaching out for services, because through the process of doing so, they will also be identified,” Thornton said.
Thornton supports more preventative efforts. It’s a plan that does’t make much sense to the Randolphs.
“We’ve got to do something to put an end to it, or at least reduce it. I don’t think a registry would ever eliminate it. Whoever is not supporting this bill, we need to let them now we need this, and we need it now,” Thom said.
He and Lind have started working with Congressman Tom Reed’s office, hoping to get some momentum going at the federal level.
You can read the text of the bill, known as Brittany’s law here. It’s named after a girl from Geneva. She and her mom who were killed in 2009.