News 12 First at Five / Monday, July 22, 2013
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Cedrick Tobias Harris had a criminal history and sadly his last violent crime happened at the home his wife lived. Harris killed two people and sent another to the hospital. The one he sent to the hospital was April Paulk, his wife, who was starting the process of getting a TPO, or restraining order, but to her surprise and many others, there's a process that goes with that.
"I've been doing this for 17 years," said Yasmin Thomas-Goodman.
Thomas-Goodman works for Safe Homes, which is a group that helps the abused, but she says sometimes those who are hurt don't know how to get protection.
"The client has to be sworn in and they have to read over the petition, which is asking the courts to give them some relief so they can feel safe," she said.
Thomas-Goodman says the first step is going to court. She says the Sheriff's Office only enforces restraining orders and doesn't issue them, but she does suggest filing reports with them in case one needs to prove they've been hurt and can justify using protection in self-defense.
"Take a knife or gun to protect herself, then there is all this documentation from the Sheriff's Department that she's called, all the times they have arrested him or her, and all the times these things have happened. So it's very important to do that," she said.
She says it's important to remember TPOs, or restraining orders, aren't bulletproof and are only a piece of paper. The process depends on the request for a temporary protective order to be seen and signed by a judge. Then, even after a judge signs it, it then goes to the Sheriff's Office to be served. It could be a few days to a couple of weeks, and some have taken months.
"If that person has no respect for the law, that paper won't make a difference to them. They don't care that a Sheriff's Department deputy, all buffed up and muscle, came and served it to them. It doesn't make a difference because they don't care anything about the law," she said.
Harris was charged with criminal trespass and family violence in 2007. Paulk had filed for divorce earlier this month.
Up to this point, 100 temporary protective orders have been filed in Richmond County, and if you need one, Safe Homes says don't hesitate to call them at (706) 736-2499.