PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The two protective orders that Berta Bogran had against her estranged husband didn’t stop him from gunning her down outside her home in late August.
Her case had gone through three judges in Rhode Island Family Court, as Bogran tried to end her six-year marriage and get away from her abusive spouse. A District Court judge found her husband, Oscar Hudson, guilty of violating a restraining order against her and issued another.
But Hudson appealed his conviction, then killed Bogran and himself a month later.
“We were all distraught,” Family Court Chief Judge Michael B. Forte said in a recent interview with the Globe. In the aftermath, Forte said, he held multiple meetings to review Bogran’s case and see what the court had missed.
“Everything worked the way it was supposed to,” Forte concluded, “but it was still a disastrous result.”
Now, Forte said he intends to create a domestic violence intake unit within the Family Court, to screen cases of people seeking restraining orders, look at risk factors and prioritize cases, as well as offer services for both parties.
“Right now, they come here, get a form and an order and that’s it,” Forte said.
The Family Court has requested to carve out roughly $350,000 in next year’s budget for the new program, which Forte said will be funded largely through attrition. Instead of hiring more staff, the court would reassign a social worker, case managers and a clerk.
Forte and Family Court deputy administrator Kevin Richard said the program would be similar to Rhode Island’s long-standing intake unit that handles juvenile cases, where the court staff evaluates the reasons that youths are coming into court and looks for ways to solve their problems.
“The more information we can find for evaluation and to do direct assessment, and the more eyes and ears on a case,” the more successful the court can be in helping families, said Richard.
Courts in several other states, as well as the District of Columbia, have created various types of collaborative intake programs, involving advocates and prosecutors who offer counseling, legal and social services.
The Rhode Island program would be a diversionary arm, funded solely by the judiciary. Forte said this idea has been discussed since he became chief judge in 2016. The General Assembly will need to approve the budget, but the judiciary can create the program on its own, he said.
“We know the limitations of what we’re doing -- this case makes it obvious,” Forte said. “People need more guidance than an order.”
Bogran was afraid Hudson would kill her.
They’d been married for six years and didn’t have children together when Bogran evicted him from the house and filed for divorce last December.
In the complaint she filed Feb. 4 for a protective order, she wrote that Hudson was stalking her. He even moved a few doors away.
“He has shown up at place I have been such as the supermarket. He calls all the time and randomly,” Bogran said in her sworn statement. “He is very manipulative and his anger is escalating.”
Magistrate Jeanne Shepard signed the ex-parte temporary order later that same day, and Bogran’s restraining order request continued at hearings before Family Court Judge Felix E. Gill and Magistrate Andrea Iannazzi.
While her sworn statement doesn’t mention a gun, Bogran had checked a box on the complaint for the Family Court to order Hudson to surrender any firearms. The form states that a person under a restraining order shall be required to surrender any firearms and be entitled to a hearing within 15 days, and that gun possession violates state and federal laws.
Hudson’s lawyer, Frank Saccocio, questioned him about guns during one of the Family Court hearings.
“[Hudson] testified under oath that he didn’t have guns, he never had guns,” Forte said.
After Hudson showed up at Bogran’s house in early April -- violating the temporary restraining order -- the Providence officer who arrested him asked Bogran if he had any guns.
“One of the first questions we ask is: Does he have any weapons?” Officer Michelle Tella said in an interview with the Globe. “She said he had no weapons, but she said he’s going to end up killing me.”
Tella said Bogran was shaking and crying, saying Hudson was threatening her. But in front of the police and a judge, Tella said, Hudson showed a different side.
“He was submissive. He was well-dressed. He was always: ‘I just love her. I just want things to work,’” Tella recalled. “And that’s how they do it. They make the victims think they’re crazy. It was an obsession that came to a sick level with him.”
Family Court Judge Gill granted Bogran a final civil restraining order against Hudson in late April. In mid-July, District Court Judge Melissa Dubose found Hudson guilty of violating the protective order, a criminal offense, and issued a no-contact order and mandated counseling.
Under a 2017 state law, those convicted of domestic violence crimes or subject to final protective orders are prohibited from having guns. They must fill out affidavits to tell the court how they’ve surrendered their guns or swear that they don’t have any.
Hudson appealed to Rhode Island Superior Court, which under state law makes his conviction moot. An affidavit for “surrender of firearms” was left blank, with a note “filing appeal” attached.
On Aug. 24, Hudson went looking for Bogran. He had a gun.
Bogran had emigrated from Honduras in 2001 to escape her country’s violence and built a life in Rhode Island, said Jose Argueta-Bogran, one of her sons.
She worked as a nanny, while raising two sons and a daughter, and caring for her mother at their home on Charles Street. “She was a great mom. She was the hardest worker I ever met,” said Argueta-Bogran, 22. “She did all that for her children, and she didn’t get to reap the reward.”
That day in August, he saw Hudson shoot his mother in the street outside their home. Neighbors gawked as Hudson fled. Argueta-Bogran ran to his mother and stayed as she died.
Providence SWAT officers found Hudson dead in his apartment a few doors down. He’d shot himself twice.
The handgun Hudson used had originally been purchased by someone in Georgia more than 15 years ago, said Providence Police Major David Lapatin. How Hudson got the gun is anyone’s guess.
And that frustrates Judge Forte. A protective order is a process that requires people to respect it, he said. Hudson never did.
Forte conceded that it was impossible to know whether the domestic violence intake program he is now proposing would have made a difference in Bogran’s case. “But we would have had more information,” he said.
Bogran’s son is skeptical any further screening would have done much. “Oscar was great at looking like a normal guy in front of the judge or when any authority figure was around,” Argueta-Bogran said. “He would have still done the same thing in the end.”
His mother believed in the justice system, he said. He witnessed its limits.
“I don’t blame the court or the judge or the police, or the people who watched her die in the street,” Argueta-Bogran said. “The only [person] you can expect to protect anyone is yourself.”
Amanda Milkovits can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org