Free protective orders for domestic violence victims

HOUSTON – After recent cases of domestic abuse turning deadly in the Houston area, the Harris County district attorney is encouraging victims to take a stand by taking advantage of protective orders to potentially save their lives.

The details of the death of 25-year-old Veronica Mercado and her 2-year-old daughter are tough to imagine. Police said the two were shot to death early last month in their kitchen at their home in southeast Houston. Something Mercado's friend said after the shooting about the lack of a protective order haunted Harris County treasurer Orlando Sanchez.

"It was revealed in that interview that the victim had expressed to her that she had indeed called the police department fearing for her life and was told by law enforcement that it would cost about $160. Well, she didn't have $160 so she apparently went home," Sanchez said.

Mercado's former boyfriend, Jonatan Figueroa, is charged with capital murder. The district attorney said there is no guarantee that a protective order would have changed the outcome, but it can oftentimes help.

"Domestic violence is a scourge and it forms the basis of many, many of our homicide cases. Everyone should feel safe, especially in their home. And we believe in standing up for the victims. We want to support them," Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said.

She said a family violence protective order is a lawsuit that can help stop violent and harassing behavior.

"Our office will continue to prosecute the batterers and ensure justice for all victims. The more educated the community is about the resources available to help domestic abuse victims, the more we can do to combat the problem in our community," Anderson said.