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Families of Santa Fe HS victims could finally get answers with proposed Texas bill

Senate Bill 435 would give victims' families access to things like medical examiner's reports and videos of crimes.

SANTA FE, Texas — Some victims' families were frustrated after the Santa Fe High School shooting because they said they didn't have access to things like autopsy reports to help them understand how their loved ones died.

Now, there's a proposed bill in the Texas Legislature that would change that.

Senate Bill 435 would give victims' families access to things like medical examiner's reports and videos of crimes.

In the case of the Santa Fe families, that kind of evidence has been withheld from them due to a pending trial. But, five years later, no trial date has been set and some families argue that they deserve answers.

"It's hard," said Rosie Stone, who lost her son in the Santa Fe High School shooting.

She said sewing helps her manage her grief.

"It's my calm. It's just a peaceful thing," Stone said.

She said she picked up the hobby after the tragedy.

“It’s hard ... you have to wake up every single day and wait to see if today’s the day we are going to get the information on our kids," she said.

Stone's been told that her son helped save seven other students, but she hasn't been allowed to see the medical examiner's report to know how many times he was shot and where.

“It’s almost like the killers have more justice than the victims do -- why is that? Because they’re dead?" she said.

The accused shooter has still not been ruled competent to stand trial, according to the Galveston County District Attorney.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 435 could provide some answers to the grieving families, should it pass.

The bill, proposed by state Sen. Mayes Middleton, would allow prosecutors to share certain information about a crime with victims and their families without requiring the information to be made public.

“I still don’t officially know if Kimberly (Vaughn) was shot from behind or from the front, or with what weapons," said Rhonda Hart, at a press conference outside Santa Fe High School last week 

Her daughter was also killed in the shooting and she spoke in support of the bill.

“As a parent, as a mom, I was actively involved as she came into this world, I had a front-row seat, and I don’t know how she left it," Hart said.

Back at Stone's home, she'll continue dealing with the waiting the best way she knows how. By creating something beautiful, she's able to keep her mind from focusing on the questions still lingering about her son.

“Nothing should be withheld from us parents. That’s just my opinion on that," Stone said.

Galveston County District Attorney Jack Roady voiced support for the bill.

"Under the current law, crime victims and their families don’t have the ability to access this information prior to trial," said Roady. "This has been especially heartbreaking for the victims’ families in the Santa Fe High School shooting, since the trial, in that case, has been delayed while we wait for the defendant to be restored to competency."  

He said if it passes, it would allow his office to share some of the information these families have been waiting for.

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