It's been almost three weeks since Petaluma mother and beloved school teacher Kim Baucom Conover was gunned down in front of her family law attorney's office on Keller Street by her husband, Kevin Conover, but the public shock and sadness left by the murder-suicide has been slow to pass.

While answers to exactly what led to this tragedy are difficult to find, speculation continues on whether it could have been prevented. Unlike other crimes, domestic violence is mostly unseen and unknown, except to the perpetrators and their victims. In this case, and despite numerous calls to police over the course of three years along with at least three unsuccessful attempts by Kim Conover to obtain a restraining order to protect her from her husband, the outcome was the worst possible.

On the same week that Kim Conover was killed, jurors were hearing testimony on another domestic violence homicide in which Petaluma contractor Kenneth Mullennix is charged with murdering his wife, Buapha, in January 2010.

Both cases have forced this community to confront the fact that domestic violence is not only a very real problem in Petaluma, a reality underscored by police statistics every year, but that its effects can be deadly for victims.

Kim Conover sought to obtain a restraining order in early March against her estranged husband whom she described as "violent, assaultive, unpredictable, uses firearms and knives." The judge denied the request. On April 9, after Conover filed another complaint regarding physical abuse, Petaluma Police sought an emergency protective order from another judge. That request was also denied, purportedly because the evidence presented did not demonstrate that there was "an immediate and present danger of domestic violence."

It will never be known if the issuance of a restraining order would have prevented Kim Conover's murder.

But in the aftermath of this tragedy, law enforcement and judicial officials owe the public a complete explanation of what happened in this case and whether changes are needed in the process of obtaining restraining orders to ensure that victims seeking legitimate legal protection will receive it.

In the meantime, persons who are in an abusive relationship, or know someone who is, should not hesitate to call the local domestic violence hotline at 546-1234, or the Sonoma County Family Justice Center at 565-8255.