New York Senate passes Melanie’s Law; Assembly next

State Senator Michelle Hinchey speaks about Melanie’s Law, which would close a loophole for orders of protection for victims of domestic violence and insure that all members of a victim’s family are protected. Behind her on the right are Cheryl Chiannese, Melanie’s mother and Sue Serino, Dutchess County Executive.

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New York Senate passes Melanie’s Law; Assembly next

Legislators in New York are working to close a gap in a law that is meant to protect victims of domestic violence.

State Sen. Michelle Hinchey (D-41), representing the counties of Columbia, Green, northern Dutchess, and parts of Ulster , announced the passage of Melanie’s Law, a bill she co-sponsored, through the state Senate.

The bill awaits passage in the Assembly and to be signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Melanie’s Law addresses a hole in domestic violence legislation that allows protective orders to be placed on people who are in a relationship and their family members under age 18, but not those who are older.

Dutchess County resident, 29-year old Melanie Chianese was murdered by her mother’s boyfriend. Her mother and her then three-year old son had orders of protection, but because Melanie was over eighteen, she was denied a protective order.

The boyfriend, Paul J. Senecal of Poughkeepsie, was wearing an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet at the time of the murder. He had been arrested three times for domestic violence and was awaiting a sentence on felony contempt. On May 29, 2022, he stabbed Melanie several times at her home in Wappingers, which she shared with her mother and son. She ran to a neighbor’s house covered in blood. An ambulance responded, but Melanie died at the hospital.

Sen. Hinchey said, “When victims of domestic violence and their loved ones come forward for help, they deserve to be protected under the law.

Melanie’s Law will bridge a glaring loophole by expanding orders of protection to cover family and household members, ensuring they can also seek protection from dangerous individuals.”

She added, “I’m proud to sponsor this common-sense legislation and to have secured its passage in the Senate.”

“The bill was originally sponsored by former Sen. Sue Serino. When I became the representative of northern Dutchess County in the State Senate, I discussed the bill with Sue, learned about its importance, both to her and the Chianese family, and decided to sponsor the bill,” explained Senator Hinchey.

Serino now serves as Dutchess County Executive and remains a supporter of the bill.

Of Melanie’s mother Senator Hinchey said, “I thank Cheryl Chianese, Melanie’s mom for her tireless advocacy in the face of such unimaginable tragedy.”

At the time of her murder Melanie was about to graduate from Dutchess Community College with a degree in substance abuse counseling. She also was a devoted mother to a three-year-old son who has autism.

At his sentencing Senecal said he killed Melanie because he wanted revenge for being rejected by her mother. He was sentenced to life without parole and is also under restricted communication with the outside world because of writing, calling, and emailing Cheryl Chianese while in prison.

Cheryl Chianese was granted a 99-year restraining order against Senecal.

Since the murder of her daughter, Chianese has advocated for better protection for all involved in domestic violence.

She said, “If Melanie’s Law passes and if Melanie’s Law saves just one life, our mission has been fulfilled.”

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