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After teen was murdered by father, 'Om's Law' advances in Utah legislature

Posted at 8:03 PM, Feb 08, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-08 22:03:59-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill aimed at protecting children in certain judicial proceedings involving child custody and parent time has made its way out of committee.

The House Judiciary Committee heard HB 272, also known as 'Om's Law,' Thursday morning.

The bill is named after 16-year-old Om Gandhi. Om was killed by his father, 49-year-old Parth Gandhi, a local neuropsychologist on Mother's Day weekend last year.

"I can't imagine really anything better to have his name on and his honor," said Leah Moses, Om's Mother.

Moses gave a heartbreaking and chilling testimony to the committee.

"Om was brutally shot twice in the back and once in the face with a .45 caliber handgun bought from a pawn shop on the same State Street in Salt Lake City as the courthouse where I fought in family court for 14 years," said Moses.

Court records dating back to 2009 show a lengthy custody battle, beginning when Moses filed for divorce. The divorce was finalized in 2014, but the fight over custody continued for years, up until Om's death.

"Throughout litigation he asked when the court would allow him to speak," said Moses.

'Om's Law' is a way Moses is hoping to give her son a voice.

The legislation would focus on amendments related to child custody proceedings, putting the focus of the child's safety first.

The bill limits expert testimony in family court to qualified and credentialed professionals and implements guidance and limits on family courts use of reunification treatment.

"This legislation that requires that the courts consider domestic violence and abuse is really important to me," said Shaynie Hunter, a supporter of HB 272.

Hunter, like Moses, detailed the abuse she and her son suffered for years.

"It was an ongoing series of incidences and they've resulted in harm to my children," said Hunter.

During a packed committee hearing, several people spoke out in support of the bill, with a handful of others voicing opposition.

Ultimately, the entire House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of Om's Law.

"Mrs. Moses, you did everything right and the system failed you," Rep. Tyler Clancy, R-Provo said.

As the legislation moves forward, Rep. Paul Cutler, the bill sponsor, says it prioritizes safety above anything else.

"We just tried to make a responsible choice about what is the absolute priority, and the absolute priority is the safety of our children," said Rep. Cutler.

As for Moses, she said she feels like her son would be proud today.

"I'm just so happy we moved the needle like it's really moved and it's moving in the direction of kids and that's the most important thing to me," said Moses.

The bill will now move to the full house.

Also in attendance during the hearing were some of Om's friends.

Ella Udell says she has known Om for 15 years and was his neighbor and high school classmate.

She says she has used the grief from her friend's death to help move HB 272 forward.

"These cards are all written from a first-person point of view to give him a voice and help him live on a little bit and give an emotional punch to the legislators that these will be delivered to and to also give the public a chance to speak out," said Udell.

According to the Center for Judicial Excellence, a California-based nonprofit, 984 children in the United States have been killed by an abusive parent during a divorce or separation from 2008 through the end of last year.

That includes 21 children here in Utah.