March 15, 2010— -- Cindy Bischof of Illinois and Tiana Notice of Connecticut were both smart, strong women -- before they were murdered by their boyfriends. Each woman had a restraining order barring her killer from coming anywhere near her at the time of her death.
"With a restraining order it's simply that -- a restraining order, a piece of paper," said Cindy's brother, Mike Bischof.
Bischof and other activists are calling on law enforcement to rethink their approach to domestic violence and restraining orders.
"[Domestic violence] can be stopped," said Diane Rosenfeld, a Harvard Law school lecturer and expert on domestic violence and restraining orders. "I think that law enforcement and the criminal justice system is not doing enough presently, obviously, to protect women from very predictable, very preventable types of violence."
Restraining orders are effective in about 70 percent of cases, according to Rosenfeld, but when they don't work, it can be deadly. And, she says, violations of restraining orders, no matter how insignificant, should be dealt with immediately.
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"That's a very, very, very dangerous thing," she said. "Even if it's a phone call, even if after the order of protection, he sends her flowers, because he's just testing the system to see if there will be any consequences and if that violation isn't prosecuted and if his behavior is not contained, it will continue to escalate and that's what can escalate into a homicide."
Cindy Bischof was a 44-year-old commercial real estate agent, living with her boyfriend, Michael Giroux -- a divorced father of four -- in an affluent suburb outside of Chicago. To Cindy's brother, Mike, they seemed like a happy couple.
"He was very charming and also had a presence about himself," her brother said. "Our kids knew him as Uncle Mike. We spent holidays with him, so this was someone we knew very well, or thought we knew very well."
But when Giroux lost his job, he started drinking and became depressed, Mike Bischof said. Cindy encouraged him to get help and when he didn't, she asked him to leave.
That's when the stalking began. Mike Bischof said Giroux attempted to hang himself on Cindy's back patio. Another time he broke into her house
"He took a 16-gallon drum of paint and pretty much [destroyed] every personal belonging that she had from electronics to furniture to computers," Mike Bischof said, "He painted everything in her house, turned out the faucet, clogged the drains so there was flooding and over $50,000 worth of damage."
Cindy Bischof went immediately to court and got a restraining order against Giroux. She carried mace and a panic alarm, and informed friends and family to be on the lookout for him. She also varied her schedule, spending nights in different places.
"She sensed that it was a very dangerous situation," Mike Bischof said. "She stayed with my parents. She lived in a house in Plainfield, a rental house that an employer had given her to stay in to stay away, [and] she had her own house in Florida -- a second house -- that she stayed in. She was on the run."
Giroux frequently violated the restraining order, Mike Bischof said.
"[Giroux] was driving by my parents' house, leaving voicemail messages at my parents' house, calling from his cell phone, sometimes he would block his number sometimes he wouldn't," Mike Bischof said. "He followed her out on the golf course on day, she loved to golf, she was with some friends. He did it all."