By any telling, what happened to Vernetta Cockerham in her Yadkin County home on Nov. 19, 2002, was horrific.
But it’s the tragic questions that truly haunt her story, told in this month’s O, the Oprah Magazine. Like the one in the title of the article, written by Winston-Salem journalist Phoebe Zerwick: “Why didn’t they stop him?” Or, perhaps more to the point, the challenge in the first paragraph, “Why aren’t the laws against domestic violence enforced?”
Cockerham was in the news this month when she settled a lawsuit that she filed against the Jonesville Police Department for not enforcing a protective order against her estranged husband. That failure resulted in the murder of Cockerham’s daughter.
Today, Cockerham is a volunteer victim advocate with the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Her heart-wrenching story erases any doubt that our state needs to tighten laws relating to protection for victims of domestic violence and to make police and court officials more accountable.
House Bill 1464, which is awaiting approval in a conference committee, directs police officers to make an arrest when they have probable cause to suspect that a protective order has been violated. It’s being called “Candice’s Law,” in honor of Cockerham’s daughter, and it deserves final passage.