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Marie Varsos and Debbie Sisco murders inspire a bill requiring warrant checks on protective orders

Marie Varsos and Debbie Sisco2.jpg
Posted at 6:37 PM, Feb 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-15 19:37:01-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Nearly one year later, the violent murders of Marie Varsos and Deborah Sisco have inspired a new bill requiring warrant checks on all protective orders served.

Their families will tell you these two did everything they could to protect themselves leading up to that fateful morning on April 12, 2021.

Marie knew her life and her mother’s life were in jeopardy. In the end, it wasn’t enough.

Alex Youn says he still speaks to his mother and sister every day, even long after their passing. He believes that no matter how tragic the circumstances, what happened to his family could have been prevented.

“What has helped me and what’s been therapeutic is working through what happened. What went wrong? Ways that the system could be improved, so other people don’t have the experience of what my family has had to go through,” Alex said.

Alex was there to escort his sister to police the night she claims Shaun allegedly strangled her until she was unconscious, before holding her hostage at gunpoint.

Marie says that’s when Shaun threatened to kill her and her family. She convinced Shaun into letting her leave, before immediately calling the police as she drove to her mother’s home in Lebanon.

Police instructed Marie to return to Davidson County to file a report, which Alex says took hours. Marie officially pressed charges and two felony warrants were issued against Shaun for aggravated assault and false imprisonment. An order of protection was also issued.

Davidson County Sheriff’s deputies called Shaun the next day to notify him of the protective order. Shaun agreed to visit the sheriff’s office and pick up his copy, even though there were two active warrants for his arrest. He walked back out without being placed under arrest.

“How many other people have walked into the sheriff's department with open warrants and have just left. It seems like there’s a miscommunication and a missed opportunity there,” Alex said.

It was only until Marie told officers that Shaun was possibly staying in his mother’s home in Fairview that officers arrested Shaun two days later.

Shaun posted bail after spending four hours behind bars. He drove to Marie’s mother’s home the next month, shot and killed both women. He later turned the gun on himself.

State Rep. Bob Ramsey, R-Maryville, says this isn’t about pointing fingers at the agencies involved, but clearly, something has to change.

He proposed HB2533 to require deputies to run warrant checks for those on the opposing end of an order of protection.

“The best legislation we do comes from issues where the law falls short. This is one of those,” Ramsey said.

Davidson County deputies told NewsChannel 5 they do check warrant status, but don’t have jurisdiction to make these arrests. They leave that up to Metro Nashville Police.

“Nobody intended for this to happen and there was no one asleep at the wheel. There was just no mandate or regulation in place to require that this thorough examination of the person’s history be done,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey says this is where a bill could ensure no offender ever slips through the cracks again. Alex believes the order of protection coupled with the divorce filings finally put Shaun over the edge in the weeks leading to the murders.

He says the period between when an assault takes place, charges are filed and someone is brought to justice are often the most vulnerable moments for any victim.

“Any single moment that was wasted on not having him behind bars is a missed opportunity,” Alex said.

HB2533 is up for discussion in subcommittees this week. Ramsey says they’re considering amendments to simplify the process for deputies to better communicate with police on active warrants.

This legislation is one of at least four bills inspired by the 2021 murders of Marie Varsos and Deborah Sisco.