Top Stories

Local judge talks about how to recognize domestic violence

David Spurgeon spent 20 prosecuting domestic-violence cases before he ran for judge.

He said identifying this behavior is second nature to him and said there are signs that not only judges can look for, but neighbors, friends and family.

Weeks after a Pitt student was murdered in Oakland, and police arrested her ex-boyfriend Matthew Darby, the judge in the case told me we need to talk more about domestic violence.

“October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and we certainly need to talk about it this month. Unfortunately, there's been quite a few incidents that brings it more to our attention this month,” Spurgeon said.


Spurgeon can't talk specifically about this case, but Channel 11 pulled the paperwork and learned that he granted a PFA for Alina Sheykhet, even after she said she didn't believe Darby would hurt her.

“You don’t want to believe that the person who says they care about you and love you is going to hurt you,” Spurgeon said, adding that he applauds Pittsburgh police for using a program to help officers determine on the spot if a victim is at risk for being murdered.

Officers ask questions such as: Does he have a gun or can he get one easily?  Does he or she follow you, spy on you or leave you threatening messages?

“If they do screen as being lethal then they are connected with a domestic-violence agency on the spot,” Spurgeon said.

He and District Attorney Stephen Zappala are working with lawmakers to pass a bill allowing GPS ankle monitors if a defendant gets out on bail.

We spoke to Harrisburg legislators Monday about Senate Bill 196, which would providing electronic GPS monitoring for domestic-violence offenders.

The judiciary committee got this bill in January of 2017. It would have to be passed by the House and the Senate, and signed by the governor before it would take effect.

This is a slow-moving process. They have until November of next year to get this passed or they'd have to start over.

There haven’t been any hearings on the bill yet.