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Top judge defends lack of protective order in Petaluma case

Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 at 4:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 at 4:50 p.m.

Sonoma County's top judge said Wednesday that a fellow judge acted appropriately when she rejected an emergency restraining order for a Petaluma woman, who was shot to death one week later by her estranged husband.

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Kim Conover

Judge Virginia Marcoida followed the law when she reviewed the information provided by a Petaluma police officer and then denied the request, Presiding Judge Rene Chouteau said.

“Whatever was related by the officer to the judge didn't meet the criteria of immediate and present danger of domestic violence,” Chouteau said.

Marcoida did not comment Wednesday and referred calls to court administrators.

Petaluma resident Kim Conover, 43, sought the temporary protective order April 9 at the Petaluma Police Department. She reported that her husband, Kevin Conover, 41, had grabbed her that morning during an argument at their Searles Way home.

A Petaluma police officer investigated the allegations, which the husband denied, Lt. Tim Lyons said Wednesday.

The officer went to the home to interview the husband. There was no sign of a struggle at the home, Lyons said.

Kim Conover told the officer she didn't want him arrested, but wanted the emergency order.

Even without her cooperation, the officer could have arrested Kevin Conover that day on suspicion of misdemeanor battery, based on her allegation.

“We could make an arrest, even with the lack of injury showing and when the victim does not want prosecution,” Lyons said.

The officer decided not to arrest the man, said Lyons.

“I feel he acted appropriately, based on his documented report,” Lyons said.

The officer attempted to help the woman get the restraining order, Lyons said.

Chouteau said several such requests are made weekly to the courts and he estimated a majority are approved.

It was the second time since March that Conover asked the court to protect her from her husband.

On March 6 she filed an application for a temporary restraining order that included allegations of abuse dating to 2009. In the application she said she and her children were afraid of Kevin Conover.

“Kevin is violent, assaultive, unpredictable, uses firearms and knives,” the application said.

Judge James Bertoli found some of the events happened too long ago to warrant an emergency order. At a March 27 hearing, Kim Conover's lawyer withdrew the request for a temporary restraining order.

Two weeks later, she went back to police and requested a protective order. After her April 9 request was rejected, Kim Conover went to the office of her divorce attorney on Sunday afternoon to seek his help obtaining the restraining order, according to family members. Her husband was waiting for her when she left the downtown Petaluma office and shot her in the head, then turned the gun on himself.

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