In the wake of a recent homicide involving a 36-year-old woman in Berwyn Heights, Prince George’s County leaders are debating whether protective orders are sufficient in keeping potential victims safe.
Amber Danielle Schinault, 36, was found dead July 22 by town police, with a slash to her neck in the basement of her home on 57th Street.
Less than 24 hours later, county police arrested Andrew Kugler, 37, of College Park near the College Park Metro Station, according to Prince George’s police, who added he is Schinault’s ex-boyfriend.
Kugler had a protective order against him at the time of the incident, which was intended to prohibit him from coming in contact with Schinault under any circumstance, according to Maryland Judiciary.
Town officials including the mayor and police chief said Kugler and Schinault rented the 57th Street home together, but there were several domestic-related disputes and Kugler eventually moved away.
According to online Prince George’s County District Court records, Kugler was issued a protective order June 13, which ordered him to vacate and stay away from Schinault’s home, to not enter her place of employment, refrain from contacting her, and surrender any possessed firearms. The court order came after Kugler was charged June 2 for first- and second-degree assault and reckless endangerment. For his most recent second-degree murder charge, Kugler is set for a preliminary hearing in Upper Marlboro on Aug. 20.
Calls to Kugler’s defense attorney, John McKenna, were not returned.
Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo said there needs to be more of an effort to link residents and victims of domestic abuse to county resources such as crisis centers and hotlines to call for assistance.
“Although this was a homicide, domestic violence is something that happens and it may not result in such a terrible ending,” Calvo said.
He said the issue with domestic violence is a matter of “letting people know that there are resources there that can protect them. Women are too often vulnerable to behavior that can be terrible.”
Calvo said it is worth an internal review to see how county and municipal leaders and law enforcement agencies spread information of resources and what information can be made more available.
He said police officers generally have a knowledge of individuals in domestic-abuse situations, and said if there is enough call for concern, they need to make sure that whoever is a victim knows there are resources available.
“At the end of the day, it’s a piece of paper,” Calvo said of protective orders. “But it has to be taken seriously. Too often do we hear a story where an order is in place that does nothing. It’s just a legal barrier.”
In another domestic incident on July 14, a Beltsville man — who has since been charged with attempted murder — allegedly shot his estranged girlfriend and her friend at a day spa in Ellicott City, critically wounding both of them.
Tuan Minh Pham, 35, had an active protective order against him following a civil court ruling Jan. 18, which also granted the ex-girlfriend sole custody of their two children, according to online Prince George’s County District County records.
Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks said court orders do not carry much weight if a person is so inclined to harm another and is in possession of a weapon.
“The truth is that paper is generally not enough. The order we hope prevents them, but we need to do more,” she said. “We want none of these crimes to ever occur and we have to really hold people accountable for these acts of violence.”
Alsobrooks said she thinks tougher and longer sentences for committing domestic violence crimes need to be looked at as an avenue to deter individuals from violating their protective orders.
“It’s about punishing the push before it escalates to a stabbing,” she said.
She also said the state’s attorney’s office currently partners with faith-based organizations to provide victims of domestic violence with free training seminars and with people who will console them and talk about how to stay safe in dangerous situations.
“The best tool we have is education,” she said.