BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL) — The family of a Tri-Cities teen who was the victim of domestic violence is serving as the inspiration for a proposed new law.
Called the Gabby Act, the legislation would create an alert system for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to use to find a victim of domestic violence who is reported missing or endangered.
It’s named for Gabby Kennedy, a Bristol teenager who Bristol police said was killed by her estranged stepfather.
With help from the Gabby Foundation and sponsorship from Sen. Jon Lundberg, the Gabby Act is on its way for introduction in both houses of the Tennessee Legislature.
Lundberg told News Channel 11 the legislation would “be very similar to an Amber Alert.”
“It would be triggered by missing or endangered domestic violence victims,” Lundberg said.
Kennedy and her mother Kristina Robinson were killed in October 2020 by Robinson’s estranged husband and Gabby’s stepfather Michael Robinson, according to Bristol, Tennessee police.
At the time, Robinson was the subject of a joint investigation by Bristol police and the Department of Children’s Services, and there was an active warrant for his arrest in Russell County, Virginia, where Robinson lived.
Gabby’s father, Jesse Kennedy, said an alert system like the one proposed might have helped law enforcement find Robinson before he harmed Kennedy and her mother.
“The people that were looking for him was over in Virginia with warrants in their hand trying to find him,” Kennedy said. “But unfortunately, he just kind of hovered around [Bristol] waiting on the opportune time to do what he did.”
Trevor Lee, who attended Tennessee High School with Gabby, had been working on the bill with the Gabby Foundation for years.
He said many of the ideas in the bill are a product of his work with state and federal lawmakers.
“Eventually, after emails, phone calls meetings, we got something to put on paper,” Lee said.
Lee and Kennedy say the alert system would allow authorities to collaborate, impacting countless individuals.
“We will never know the amount of difference that it’ll make because this stuff is going on in front of us and behind their backs and behind closed doors every day,” Kennedy said.
Those who knew Gabby say working towards change is what she would have wanted.
“I think that she would be proud to see that in her name. Good things are being done, because when she was here, so many good things were done in her name,” said Lee.
Kennedy said if his and Gabby’s roles had been reversed she would have pushed for change too.
“She wouldn’t stop until something was changed, something was done,” Kennedy said.
The TBI said in a statement that it is “in ongoing discussions with Senator Lundberg and other stakeholders about the bill and domestic violence in the state.”