MINEOLA, NY (PIX11) — Jacqueline Franchetti buried her 2-year-old daughter, Kyra, exactly six years ago, and she marked the occasion outside Family Court in Nassau County on Thursday.
“Kyra was on a court-ordered visit with her father when she was shot not once, but twice, while she slept,” Franchetti told a group gathered outside the courthouse on Old Country Road. “He then set his house on fire and he killed Kyra in a murder-suicide.”
Franchetti’s story is a painful one, but she’s been sharing it for several years, becoming a powerful voice in a campaign to change Family Court law, especially how custody decisions are made.
Franchetti observed that a forensic evaluator “knew that Kyra’s father had purchased not one, but two, guns — and that he was suicidal,” the mom said. “And he recommended joint custody.”
Franchetti said she left her boyfriend, Kyra’s father, when she was pregnant, but that was not enough to protect either of them.
Jennifer Friedman, from Sanctuary for Families, told the group that she’s had 25 years of experience with domestic violence and its impact on families. She said it was troubling that “the judiciary has not kept pace with the experts in the field of domestic violence” when it comes to evaluating lethality factors.
With the help of youth ambassadors who belong to an organization called Kyra’s Champions, Franchetti pointed out that 10 children have been killed during ongoing custody disputes in New York State over the last six years.
One of the mothers who came out to show support was Cherone Coleman, who lost her only child, Zoey Autumn Pereira, in a brutal act of violence in May 2019. Coleman, who called her daughter by her middle name, was engaged in an ongoing custody feud with Martin Pereira, the 3-year-old girl’s father.
She told a Family Court judge in Queens that Pereira had stalked her and seemed to be increasingly unstable, but the judge ruled Pereira should get unsupervised weekend visits with his daughter.
On May 5, 2019, Coleman said she received a video chat showing her daughter sitting in the back seat of a locked, burning car. Her family desperately tried to reach the police to save the child, but it was too late. The dad got out of the car, severely burned himself, and jumped into a nearby lake. He succumbed to his injuries months later, after he was charged with his daughter’s murder.
Coleman said she’s been dealing with anger issues over the Family Court decisions that put her daughter in danger, along with the sadness of losing the little girl.
“And I still don’t feel like enough is being done to protect the children,” Coleman said at Thursday’s rally. “And it upsets me that I know there are going to be other moms, more children, going through this, too.”
Franchetti pointed out that the state Legislature has put together a package of eight bills designed to protect children in custody cases. One of her big supporters is state Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz, who said after he met Franchetti and heard the stories of all the children who died, he knew he had to act.
“They shouldn’t have been lost,” Dinowitz said. “It didn’t have to happen. And I swore that I would try to do my part to do something about it.”
Franchetti was heading to a state hearing concerning domestic violence after her press conference on Long Island. She is appealing to Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign Kyra’s Law, which would prioritize child safety concerns in custody cases over parental rights.