The Democratic nominee for governor of Arkansas, Mike Ross, spoke out about his plan to combat domestic violence on MSNBC Wednesday, highlighting the tragic death of 21-year-old Laura Aceves as a motivating factor.
"I was inspired by Laura's story that appeared in The Huffington Post, and it played a big role in me trying to do something about domestic violence and speaking up and making sure more and more people know that it really is a problem," Ross said. "I've been moved by this... We need to talk about it a lot more."
Ross was referring to a HuffPost investigative report in June that looked at the 2012 murder of Aceves, an Arkansas resident.
At the time of Aceves' death, she had a protective order against her former boyfriend, Victor Acuna-Sanchez, who was awaiting trial on charges stemming from two prior attacks on her. Three weeks before the killing, he was charged with violating a no-contact order. Despite a record of escalating violence, he was released without posting bail the day after his arrest.
Aceves, a mother of three, was shot in the head. Her 4-month-old son was found crying at her side, covered in blood. Acuna-Sanchez now awaits trial on a capital murder charge.
The Huffington Post story delved into Arkansas' poor record on domestic violence and asked why the justice system was unable to protect Aceves.
Last week, Ross released an ambitious domestic violence plan that would include training police in lethality assessment, boosting funding for shelters, and creating a protective-order database accessible to law enforcement and court officials.
Speaking to MSNBC's Tamron Hall on Wednesday, Ross described his plan and stressed the need for action.
"We are going to send a message loud and clear in Arkansas that we respect women, and domestic violence will not be tolerated," Ross said. "It's time that we start talking more about it and doing something about it."
Over the last decade, Arkansas has repeatedly been ranked as one of the 10 worst states when it comes to men killing women, according to annual reports by the Violence Policy Center. The ranking is based on FBI data on incidents in which a sole male offender kills a single female victim, a typical indicator of domestic homicide.
On Tuesday, Ross had traveled to Carroll County, Arkansas, to meet with Laura Aceves' mother, Laura Ponce, and hear her story.
— Mike Ross (@MikeRossUpdates) July 22, 2014
Ponce told The Huffington Post that she finally felt like her daughter's death had been acknowledged by those in power.
"He made me feel like a human being again," she said. "What he's offering is going to make a big change in Arkansas. I'm sad I lost my daughter, but if we can help save other women, I will be grateful. We don't need more women dying."
Ross faces former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R) on Nov. 4 in the race to succeed Gov. Mike Beebe (D), who cannot run again because of term limits. HuffPost Pollster has Hutchinson leading Ross by 48 percent to 44 percent.