Domestic violence victim Rekiah O’Donnell was killed by her partner. But Rekiah’s family believe the perpetrator “got away with murder” because of a troubling legal loophole.
Warning: this item deals with domestic violence and may be distressing for some readers.
Rekiah O’Donnell was just 22 years old when a bullet brought her life to an abrupt halt.
But the abusive thug who shot her in the head, Nelson Lai, wasn’t found guilty of murder.
Instead, 35-year-old Lai was found guilty of the lesser crime of manslaughter — despite shocking evidence showing he had violently abused Rekiah for years, and despite the fact that he’d texted her “I’ll kill you, rat” prior to the October 11, 2013 killing.
During his trial, Lai’s lawyers claimed the Sunshine man had been ‘coming down’ from the drug ice when he picked up a gun and pulled the trigger. Lai said he was minding the weapon for a friend, and didn’t know it was loaded.
It was excuse enough for a court to downgrade Lai’s conviction from murder to manslaughter — and that surprising verdict, delivered on 13 May, has left Rekiah’s family reeling. Now, they’re demanding change.
“Any amount of time (in jail) will never be enough, of course,” Rekiah’s brother Jesse O’Donnell told Mamamia of Lai’s sentence. “We were obviously hoping for a murder conviction which could have been anywhere up to a mid-3o range.”
Of the sentence Lai now faces — which could be as short as mere years — Jesse says: “Who knows what else he could do when he comes out?”
Jesse has “no single doubt” in his mind that Lai killed the young women intentionally.
“There was so much evidence including threats to kill… days before he killed her,” he explained in a segment on A Current Affair aired last night.
Rekiah’s family is now calling on the State Government to implement “Rekiah’s law”, an amendment that would ensure abusers like Lai are unable to use the fact they were high on drugs, or didn’t know there were bullets in the gun, to escape murder convictions.
“Rekiah’s law, in a nutshell, will be a law that says that anyone who points a gun at anybody, without doing it in self-defence, will be held responsible and (convicted of) murder,” Jesse said.
Sign the Change.org petition calling for Rekiah’s law here.
“We want to ensure that people can’t use ridiculous excuses to get out of it, such as not knowing there are bullets in the gun, or using drugs or alcohol,” he said.
“So what this is going to stop is people like that actually getting away with murder.”
Jesse, now 22 himself, has set up a Facebook page promoting Rekiah’s Law, while his best friend Dale Chapman, 21, has created a Change.org petition calling for legislative change.