Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook

Tidal Wave of Grief

Posted August 1, 2007 2:23 p.m. EDT

They say losing a child is the worst tragedy a parent can ever experience- Fran Bumgarner says losing a grandchild is equally as devastating.

Bumgarner clutches the photographs of her two-and-a-half year old grandson, Kendall,  lovingly as if she were holding the actual child in her hands.  In one picture he is hugging his mother, Cordae.   In the photograph he is wearing a "Shrek" hat that his mother has just given him.  They are also wearing light-up-the-room smiles.  This picture makes Bumgarner smile too, but just as quickly as the smile comes over her it is erased by what she calls a "tidal wave of grief."

Kendall and Cordae were shot and killed by Alan Gates in Orange County in July 2002 along with his daughter, Valerie Gates.  They were not originally his intended targets, but they were killed in the middle of someone else's domestic violence tirade.  Gates had a long history of domestic violence.  He violated multiple protective orders, but never spent a night in jail until he was charged with murder.

Bumgarner is trying to get a law passed that would make it a felony for someone to violate a domestic violence protective order more than once.  She calls  House Bill 44  "a lifesaving law."  It didn't pass in this session, but she is hopeful that it will pass in the short session coming up in the spring of 2008.

Kendall would be seven-and-a-half years old if he were alive today, but to Bumgarner he will always be a bubbly toddler- one who is easily made happy with simple things like a paper "Shrek" hat.   Bumgarner will continue to fight for  House Bill 44 .  She will also continue to ride the tidal wave of grief that she hopes someday will lead her to a more peaceful shore- a place where domestic violence doesn't exist.

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