Did the courts let Heather Lynn McGuire down?

Darci Marchese, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – A Kensington woman who feared for her life went to court for protection, but she was killed by the man she was hoping to escape.

Heather Lynn McGuire was riding in a car with her estranged husband Tuesday morning when he shot her in the head and dumped her body out onto Connecticut Avenue. A manhunt ensued.

It ended Tuesday night when Philip Joseph Gilberti was found dead at a home near Montgomery College from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The story has people wondering if protective orders really are effective.

Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy says most of the time, they can be very helpful in preventing this kind of tragedy.

“They can work, but obviously as we know from this particular case, they don’t always work,” he says.

Still, McCarthy encourages victims of domestic violence to seek protective orders when possible.

He says study after study shows that victims who seek help are safer than those who don’t.

“Individuals who do come to the authorities, whether it’s for a protective order or for a criminal warrant, are safer than those who do not,” McCarthy says.

Domestic violence is all about control and isolation, so reaching out to a third party helps “to break the bond of control their abuser many times holds on them,” he says.

Court records show McGuire went to court on the Saturday before she was killed, saying she feared her husband.

She sought refuge at a friend’s house in Aspen Hill, but Gilberti hunted her down and banged on the door, according to arrest documents. She told police she was “very scared” and worried that her husband had installed a tracking device on her vehicle.

Gilberti was arrested, but released soon after on a $4,500 bond.

The very next day, McGuire filed a complaint stating that Gilberti was stalking her home. Police arrested him again, and Gilberti was held without bond.

At his review, Gilberti said he and his estranged wife were at an Econo Lodge and that she was not afraid of him and, in fact, “violating her own protective order” by staying with him.

Eventually, District Court Judge Barry Hamilton released him on bond.

McGuire was killed one day later.

Despite this tragedy, McCarthy says there were no domestic violence homicides in 2010 in Montgomery County. He attributes that success to the supportive services provided by the county. That is what makes this case so sad, he says.

A memorial fund has been set up for Heather McGuire’s family.

Anyone wishing to help, can call or visit any Capital One branch and ask to donate to the “Heather McGuire Memorial Account.”

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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