In Memory Of Murdered Pitt Student, 'Alina's Law' Would Further Protect Domestic Abuse Victims

Dec 13, 2017

Two months ago, the parents of University of Pittsburgh student Alina Sheykhet found her dead inside her Oakland apartment. The 20 year old had been raped and murdered, allegedly by her former boyfriend, against whom she'd filed a protection from abuse order weeks earlier.

A new bill named for Sheykhet passed unanimously in the Pennsylvania Senate earlier this week, which will allow judges to order the defendant in a PFA case to wear an electronic monitoring device on their wrist or ankle. It requires a judge determine the abuser is at "substantial risk of violating the [PFA] or committing a serious crime against the victim." 

Senator Jay Costa is a sponsor of the bill, which he said was in the works for about a year before Sheykhet's death.

"There's a pretty good chance she'd still be alive today if we had this legislation in place," Costa said. "It's my sense that the judge in this instance felt she was in imminent threat of harm and would likely have ordered an electronic device in this situation."

According to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 102 people in the commonwealth were killed by their partners last year. Shekhet's former boyfriend, Matthew Darby, has since been charged with her murder, as well as committing two rapes in Indiana County and Elizabeth.

Laurie MacDonald, president of the Center for Victims, said the bill shifts some of the burden from the victim to contact police. 

"Once the perpetrator moves outside the territory they're permitted to utilize, police will be alerted," MacDonald said. "So even if the victim isn't, for whatever reason, cognizant of what's going on, the police will be there to interfere."

"Alina's Law" is now up for consideration in the House, where Costa believes it will pass without a problem.

Earlier this year, Senate Bill 501 was introduced which would restrict gun access for abusers who have PFAs against them. It has been awaiting action in the Senate Judiciary Committee since March.