BUFFALO, N.Y. — Debra Jaeger lost her sister Jill, who lived in the Syracuse area, more than 10 years ago. In 1998, the Tonawanda native was in the process of divorcing her husband Jeff, when the two got in an argument.
"As Jill was trying to get out the back door into the back yard, Jeff hit her over the head with a baseball bat, and he dragged her back into the kitchen where he continued to hit her," explained Jaeger,
Jill Cahill was taken to the hospital with severe injuries. Her family didn't know if she'd live through the night. Jeff Cahill was arraigned, charged with assault, but out on bail within 24 hours.
Jill began to recover, and six months later learned she would soon leave the hospital. But Jeff Cahill didn't let that happen.
"Jeff disguised himself as a janitor, entered Jill's room, and poisoned her with potassium cynaide," said Jaeger. "He was out on bail, on 100,000 dollars, and was able to walk around the streets planning this whole thing for six months."
Jeff Cahill was sentenced for murder, and is still behind bars. Now, Jill's family is pushing for judges to be allowed to determine bail based on the safety of the victim. Right now, they say judges only need to consider whether or not a person might flee. There's no provision that permits courts to consider the victim's safety.
"With all of the horrible things that happened, it really could have been avoided if he would have been denied bail, and had been sitting in jail waiting for his day in court on the assault," said Jaeger.
Jill's family is working with local organizations to get the bill passed in New York. For years, it has passed in the Senate, but remains held up in the State Assembly.
"It passed on April 18th of this year. Just two weeks ago. And every year it just sits there. So we need to help the women of New York. We need to do that," explained Phyllis Phillips, from the NYS Women Inc. Niagara Frontier Chapter.
Family members and advocates are asking for people to contact their state assembly members, and ask them to move Jilly's Law forward. To do that, you can visit Niagara Frontier Chapter of NYS Women Inc.