Updated: March 16, 2018 05:13 PM
Created: March 16, 2018 12:00 AM
Five-year-old Mikayla Olson was about to start kindergarten.
But she never got the chance.
"We attended her funeral the day she was supposed to start," said Mikayla's mother, Leigh Block.
Over Labor Day weekend in 2004, Block's ex-husband borrowed a gun, drove from Minnesota to Wisconsin, and took the little girl's life while sitting in a rental car on the side of the road.
"He shot Mikayla and then he shot himself," said Block.
Block had an order for protection and her ex-husband had previously been arrested for stalking and interfering with a 911 call. Still, that weekend he was allowed to take Mikayla without supervision.
"All I can say to people is, 'Do you believe me now?'" Block said.
With help from the Stop Abuse Campaign, Block has joined other domestic violence victims who are pushing for stronger laws surrounding children's safety in family court. And state leaders are listening.
This week, representatives began to research and write Minnesota's first draft of the Safe Child Act.
"When you're involved in a relationship with an abuser and you have children, the kids come first," said Block.
It's been 13 years since her daughter's murder, but she vows not to stop sharing her story and showing up at the Capitol until she sees better protections for children in custody cases.
The Safe Child Act is written to put children's health, safety and well-being first, above considerations of splitting parenting time or other factors that come into play in custody and visitation decisions.
"That's something that, with help, I'll be able to change," she said. "Because I can't save Mikayla. It's too late for her."
The Safe Child Act would also fund more thorough and specific training for judges, caseworkers, attorneys and evaluators working in family court.
It was most recently introduced in the Utah legislature.
Block hopes Minnesota is next.
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