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Guest Opinion

Here’s to Kayden, and those who made her law possible


Almost six years ago, on Aug. 5, 2018, an unspeakable tragedy struck our family. Our 7-year-old Kayden was brutally beaten to death by her biological father during an unsupervised weekend visitation.

Her stepdad (Brian Sherlock) and I found her on Monday morning, her lifeless body in the living room by the front door as though she was trying to escape. She was bludgeoned to death with a 35-pound barbell.

The police later found the “father’s” body in an upstairs bedroom, having hung himself after he left a two-page note on Kayden’s body blaming everyone else in his family for her death; “that we all deserved what we got...”

It seems obvious now that the “father” was mentally disturbed. As one family court “expert” later suggested during a Judiciary Committee Hearing in Harrisburg in November 2022, “The man just went off!” This “expert” went on to suggest that the judge in Kayden’s case did everything right, “by the law.” He heard and saw all the evidence and testimony; the man’s violent history was well established (biting a man’s ear off in a bar fight, attacking his mom and Kayden’s mother Kathy). The judge was advised by court psychiatric experts that the man should be granted unsupervised visitation if, and only if, he received proper mental treatment.

After Kayden’s death, the judge wrote, without remorse or sympathy, “It is my hope that this tragedy may be utilized as a teachable moment for all parents, the media and the public.”

So here we are. Finally. Almost six years later, we have Kayden’s Law. We finally have a real change in the family court law in Pennsylvania — the child’s safety and life is more important than all other factors. Should be enough, you think?

Yet here are some of the beliefs that still persist in our family court system: A father deserves to be with his child no matter what. Moms are hysterical and will do anything to alienate the father.

These biases continue on with inexperienced judges and court “experts” and lawyers who obviously have financial interests in family court proceedings. All this and you realize Kayden’s Law is just the start. We have a family court system still very much in need of real change.

It hasn’t been easy. Almost six years now. But Kayden’s Law is now signed and ready to become the law of the land.

While there is still much work ahead of us to protect our children, it is with profound, heartfelt gratitude that we can now celebrate the passing of Kayden’s Law, to be officially a Pennsylvania Law on Aug. 13 (Kayden’s jersey number in baseball). It has taken a village to arrive at this momentous occasion.

No expression of thanks is sufficient to thank all the many folks who made this possible — to start with, my daughter Kathy, who never gave up striving for justice in the death of her daughter; to Governor Shapiro who ultimately signed the law on April 15 and graciously welcomed our entire family to his office to witness a ceremonial signing on June 11; to all the legislators who voted for this law, especially Senators Steve Santarsiero and Lisa Baker, who worked diligently together with their staffs to write and rewrite and spearhead this law through our legislative body; to Perry Warren and Tina Davis of the Pa. House of Representatives, who initiated this process after meeting with my daughters Kathy and Heather right after Kayden’s death and seeing it ultimately become law.

And, most noteworthy, our thanks and gratitude to all the people who supported this cause and helped spread the word, who showed up at the many fundraisers and demonstrations, the voting polls to support experienced and knowledgeable candidates for judgeships.

Special thanks to so many others: Kayden’s schoolmates and teammates, teachers, school administrators, church leaders, the police, Yardley and Lower Makefield officials, journalists and the media; our friends and neighbors; our extended families from New York and California and the Midwest in between, who stood behind us and supported us over the past six years.

And a special thank you to our local federal representative Brian Fitzpatrick, who made Kayden’s Law an amendment to VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) reauthorization. It was then signed by President Biden in March of 2022, a bill that allocates funding ($25 million) to each state that enacts a version of Kayden’s Law.

Finally, a shout-out to our amazing advocate Daniella Pollack, who worked tirelessly with all legislative staffs to write — and amend and rewrite over and over — the bill that finally got to Gov. Shapiro’s desk.

The passing of Kayden’s Law is truly a remarkable achievement and shows what can be done when people sense what is truly a injustice. It is an achievement in its own right, but it can only be as effective as the family court systems in each and every state allow it to be. Let us continue to work together to make our family court systems truly protective of all children involved. Our children’s lives depend on it. Let our motto be “not one more child.”

Let us celebrate Kayden’s legacy...that it will never fade, that it will continue to guide us forward and enrich the lives of all our children, including Kayden’s four siblings (Kyler, Blake, Kayce and Kennedy) and her two cousins (Tommy and Jordan).

Here’s to our Kayden, our sweet, sweet angel.

Tom Giglio is Kayden’s pop-pop.

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