Bill transforming Colorado child abuse laws clears hurdle

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DENVER (KKTV) - A glimmer of hope in a very dark week.

A bill that would change child abuse laws in the state moved forward Wednesday.

Two of the detectives who supported the bill worked alongside fallen Deputy Micah Flick in the Investigations Unit at the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. Less than 48 hours after losing their brother in blue, they drove to the Colorado Capitol to testify with a mission in mind: helping local kids who have no voice.

Sgt. Mark Cristiani remembered one horrifying case.

"They had a window that was boarded up with about 6 inches left of light coming into the house. Just the mere fact that we were unable to physically arrest that person on that day was heartbreaking for us."

It's a story that hits home for Victor Marx, who spoke of the abuse he endured in his testimony Wednesday.

"I was abused for several years and confined from duct tape to Saran wrap to leather straps. I was electrocuted."

EPSO Chief of Staff Janet Huffor -- who spearheaded the effort -- explained the problem they see in our current law.

"Under the current child abuse statute, you can only charge a felony, a type of felony, when there's serious bodily injury involved."

Detectives recalled other horrible cases.

"The only contact [the child] had was a doorbell wired inside his room that he would use to ring to use the restroom. When we showed up to investigate, I learned that doorbell went nowhere," said EPSO Detective Jason Darbyshire.

Detective Patrick Gallagher with EPSO made a passionate plea.

"We're allowing these children to be treated this way in a way the state says we can't even treat convicted murderers in our own facilities."

Opponents argue it's too broad.

"There's the current child abuse statute, which we feel adequately covers this cruel punishment or confinement," said Genevieve Manco with the Colorado Bar Association.

But the bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee easily, 5-0. Detectives told 11 News reporter Katie Pelton it was a small victory in what has been a horrific week for the sheriff's office and our community.

Bill sponsor Sen. Bob Gardner had offered to delay the reading.

"They said, 'No we want to do it because we care about the community," Gardner told Pelton.

And as part of Flick's legacy.

"This is what Micah would want them to do is to follow through with their job in protecting children," Huffor said.

The bill will move on the appropriations committee in a few weeks.