Judge who refused to revoke bail says there was ‘no indication’ of threat before day care slaying

Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Melanie Tobiasson spoke for the first time Monday about her refusal to revoke a man’s bail two days before he fatally shot his ex-girlfriend outside a day care center.

The judge hears hundreds of new domestic abuse cases every month.

Last week, Tobiasson considered Travis Spitler’s recent lack of contact with Christina Franklin when deciding not to throw him in jail on charges of domestic battery with substantial bodily harm, forgery, and preventing or dissuading a person from testifying.

“There’s no way to know, which one, if any of them are going to do this,” the judge told a Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter. “And you can’t hold them all without bail. They have a constitutional right to a reasonable bail. As horrible as this was, there’s no way to look at this guy and say, ‘He’s the one.’”

Spitler also shot and injured the couple’s children Thursday before he turned the gun on himself outside the Kids Campus Learning Center in North Las Vegas. Two days earlier, Franklin testified against Spitler at a preliminary hearing in Tobiasson’s courtroom.

“There was no indication given to me at the time of this preliminary hearing that he had threatened her, or that he had been a threat to her” after a December attack, Tobiasson said. “Clearly, if indications were made to me that he had been a threat to her, that would have been a different situation.”

Before Spitler’s May 3 court hearing, prosecutors offered him a deal that probably would have kept him out of jail, at least until his sentencing: Plead guilty to battery with substantial bodily harm, a felony that carries possible prison time but also could result in probation, and dissuading a witness, a gross misdemeanor.

Spitler rejected the offer, forcing Franklin to testify about a Dec. 26 attack.

She said she had since moved out of the northwest valley home where he punched and kicked her in front of their children.

“I hate you,” he screamed as he whaled on her head and face with a closed fist and his feet. “You’re a f——— b——. I’m going to kill you.”

She said she buried her head in her arms and begged him to stop.

At the end of last week’s hearing, the judge found probable cause for two felony charges and one gross misdemeanor. Deputy District Attorney Kristina Rhoades asked the judge to revoke or increase Spitler’s $15,000 bail, a standard amount set when he was arrested, according to transcripts of last week’s hearing obtained by the Review-Journal.

Spitler originally posted his bail before a judge reviewed the allegations.

Tobiasson called the forgery a “stupid” thing for him to do and said it worked against him.

The judge considered the bail motion and pointed out that Spitler had not violated a protective order nor had any direct contact with Franklin since the December attack.

Tobiasson ultimately denied the prosecutor’s request, but admonished the defendant.

“You’re to have absolutely no contact, zero contact whatsoever with her,” the judge told Spitler. “If you violate that, then you will find yourself back in the Clark County Detention Center with no bail. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” he said.

The prosecutor said Spitler did not have his ex-girlfriend’s new contact information.

But that wasn’t the first time the prosecutor asked to have Spitler thrown in jail.

Last month, Rhoades asked the judge to revoke Spitler’s bail after learning that he forged a subpoena meant for Franklin.

“Had this signed subpoena form not been verified, Christina Franklin could potentially be facing serious consequences for failing to comply with a subpoena that she was never served,” the prosecutor wrote in court papers. “Defendant’s behavior is appalling, offensive, and felonious.”

Hannah Brook, community and donor relations director with Safe Nest, a shelter for victims of domestic violence, called the forgery “a red flag that somebody is being manipulative and they’re still trying to maintain control.”

A professor at UNLV Boyd Law School, whose areas of expertise include domestic violence and family law, argued that Spitler’s forgery of Franklin’s signature “indicated a possible escalation of behavior.”

Spitler’s lack of respect for the subpoena should have been a clue about his state of mind and his level of willingness to comply with the court, both of which directly affected the safety of the victim, Professor Elizabeth MacDowell said.

“If he would forge her name on a subpoena, why would he comply with the order to stay away from her?” MacDowell said. “I see that as a kind of slippage.”

Last year, Safe Nest helped more than 50,000 domestic violence victims through its hotline, advocacy, counseling services and physical shelter, said Brook, who encourages training judges, prosecutors and police on signs of abuse.

“Each case really needs to be looked at on an individual circumstance,” she said. “Only a victim truly knows how unsafe their situation really is. … It shouldn’t take a domestic violence homicide with two children who are now parentless to make us sit down and say there needs to be more appropriate training.”

Tobiasson has run domestic violence court in Las Vegas for 3½ years. Spitler was the first defendant who ended up killing his victim, she said.

“I take my job very seriously,” she said. “I’ve kept this court for as long as I have because I have a passion for it.”

Hours after Tuesday’s preliminary hearing, Franklin emailed the prosecutor, according to Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson.

Franklin said she saw her ex-boyfriend near the day care center. Rhoades encouraged her to call the police so prosecutors could return to the judge and make another request on bail.

North Las Vegas police never received a call, nor did the judge.

“I’m certainly not going to second guess or question Judge Tobiasson,” Wolfson said. “She made the rulings based on the information she had in front of her.”

“My office did everything we could,” he added. “We tried on two different occasions to get him into jail.”

Since news of the killing broke, Tobiasson has been bombarded with threats and says she hasn’t slept.

“Everything that I’m reading is about me rather than the person who murdered this woman and shot his two children and killed himself,” the judge said. “I care about these cases. I work really hard, and it’s really, really frustrating to be blamed for something like this.

“We all worry about it,” Tobiasson added. “When you’re doing domestic violence cases, you always know it’s a possibility.”

Contact reporter David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Find him on Twitter: @randompoker. Contact Kimber Laux at klaux@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0283. Find her on Twitter: @lauxkimber.

Spitler Transcript by LVReviewJournal

Local Videos
Butterflies At The Springs Preserve
The butterfly habitat is now open at the Springs Preserve. Learn about butterflies and take in the peaceful surroundings. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
The Bellagio Conservatory's spring display has a Japanese theme
The Bellagio's conservatory is hosting around 65,000 flowers, to form a Japanese theme this spring. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bonnie Springs closes (Caroline Brehman/Kimber Laux)
Bonnie Springs Ranch near Las Vegas officially closed its gates Sunday, March 17, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Honoring a fallen North Las Vegas Police officer at his namesake school
The 20th Annual Raul P. Elizondo Honor Day celebrates the fallen North Las Vegas Police officer's legacy at his namesake school. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Windy day in Las Vegas Valley
The Review-Journal's camera on the under-construction Las Vegas Stadium the was buffered by high winds on Wednesday, March 14, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
March gloom falls on Las Vegas
After a rainy overnight, gloomy skies hover over Las Vegas Tuesday morning. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
John Katsilometes gets his head shaved at St. Baldrick's
Las Vegas Review-Journal man-about-town columnist John Katsilometes gets his head shaved by former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman during St. Baldrick's Foundation shave-a-thon on the Brooklyn Bridge at New York-New York in Las Vegas Friday, March 8, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
The Blue Angels take flight over Las Vegas Strip
The Blue Angels’ U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron flew their signature Delta formation over a part of the Las Vegas Strip, McCarran International Airport and east Las Vegas and were scheduled to fly over Hoover Dam. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Gross World Records
A group of about 20 children gathered around a TV at Sahara West Library on Feb. 27 for a history lesson on the most disgusting world records.
Graduation for Renewing HOPE program
The Renewing HOPE program graduation for homeless who spend nine months in Catholic Charities program. Graduates are preparing to enter the workforce. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Car crashes into Starbucks near Las Vegas Strip
Lt. William Matchko of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police gives details about a car crashing into a Starbucks at Sahara Avenue and Paradise Road, near the Las Vegas Strip, on Friday, March 1, 2019. (Jessica Terrones/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Car crashed into PT’s Gold
A 60-year-old man who police believe was impaired drove into a PT’s Gold at Silverado Ranch and Decatur boulevards Thursday night, Metropolitan Police Department Lt. William Matchko said. The driver was hospitalized and is expected to survive. A man inside the bar was hit by debris but drove himself to the hospital, Matchko said. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Driver crashes vehicle into PT’s tavern in south Las Vegas (part 1)
A driver suspected of impairment crashed a vehicle into the wall of a PT’s Gold tavern, at 4880 W. Silverado Ranch Blvd., in Las Vegas on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. (Katelyn Newberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Driver crashes vehicle into PT’s tavern in south Las Vegas (pullout)
A driver suspected of impairment crashed a vehicle into the wall of a PT’s Gold tavern, at 4880 W. Silverado Ranch Blvd., in Las Vegas on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. (Katelyn Newberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kids Read Books To Dogs At The Animal Foundation In Las Vegas
Kids from local Las Vegas elementary schools took part, Thursday, in a program at the Animal Foundation, where they read books to dogs. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Pioneer Trail highlights historic locations in West Las Vegas
The Pioneer Trail, a 16-site route of historically significant locations in Las Vegas, starts at the Springs Preserve and snakes east until it reaches above the brim of downtown. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutefsya
Vegas Warm Weather Hits Las Vegas Valley
Between Feb. 20-21, parts of the Las Vegas Valley were hit with 7.5" of snow. Less than a week later, it was sunny with temperatures in the 70s. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dr. S. Jay Hazan, a World War II veteran, talks about his arrest at the VA Hospital
Dr. S. Jay Hazan, a World War II Army veteran, was arrested in November after he caused a ruckus at the VA Hospital in North Las Vegas and stole his driver's car keys. He was arraigned on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019, and the charges will be dropped after 60 days. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Claytee White talks about Black History Month
An interview with Claytee White, director of the Oral History Research Center at UNLV. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Reflecting on the Moulin Rouge and a segregated Vegas
Former employees of the Moulin Rouge, the first integrated hotel-casino in Nevada, talk about what it was like in the brief six months the casino was open. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas home prices
Home prices rose in every ZIP code in the Las Vegas Valley in 2018 for the second year in a row, according to SalesTraq. Prices grew fastest in older, more centrally located areas. But prices were highest in the suburbs. The top three ZIP codes for price growth were 89119 (29.8%), 89146 (25%) and 89030 (24.6%). The top three ZIP codes for median sales prices were 89138 ($464,500), 89135 ($420,500) and 89052 ($370,000).
Wagonwheel Drive overpass reopens after ice closure
Overpass at Wagonwheel Drive reopens after ice on the onramp caused the ramp to be shut down, Feb. 22, 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Keeping warm at the city of Las Vegas’ homeless courtyard
With help from the city of Las Vegas, a Salvation Army shelter stays open during the day Thursday and Friday, offering a safe place for the homeless to find respite from freezing temperatures and snow. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sloppy, Slushy Road Conditions Lead to Slow Traffic
Traffic slowed to a crawl on Jones are near Russell as conditions worsened Thursday. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Winter storm blankets west side of Las Vegas Valley
On Wednesday evening through early Thursday a winter storm dumped more than 7 1/2 inches of snow on some parts of the Las Vegas Valley. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas snow day for children
Las Vegas kids play in the snow that fell on Feb. 21, 2019. (Belinda Englman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Snow closes Red Rock Canyon, residents enjoy rare snowfall
The greater Las Vegas area was hit with snowfall on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2019. This video shows the areas surrounding Red Rock Canyon and the Summerlin community. Video by: Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Las Vegas kids attend school in the snow
Las Vegas children attend school during a rare snowstorm on Feb. 21, 2019. Staton Elementary School and other CCSD schools remained open. (Glenn Cook/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
People enjoying the snow in Summerlin
Fox Hill Park in Summerlin was busy Thursday morning, Feb. 21, 2019, with people enjoying the rare snow that fell overnight. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NHP advises motorists to take caution during Las Vegas snowstorm
NHP advised motorists to take caution during the snowstorm in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
It is a rainy Valentine's Day in Las Vegas - Video
These scenes come from the Las Vegas Stadium LiveCam (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Crime Videos
Jeremy Burch of Tonopah arrested in Amarillo, TX
Jeremy Burch of Tonopah was arrested in Amarillo, TX on a Nye County warrant for open murder, burglary, obtaining money under false pretense, use of credit card w/o owner consent, and destruction of evidence. (Nye County Sheriff's Office/Facebook)
Metro Presser For OIS 6 (Full)
Metro police address the officer involved shooting that took place on March 19, 2019.
Metro Presser For OIS 6
Metro police address the officer involved shooting that took place on March 19, 2019.
Domestic disturbance call ends in suicide
A man died by suicide after police tried negotiating with him outside of his ex-girlfriend’s home on March 13. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
20-year-old armed robbery suspect shot by Las Vegas police
A 20-year-old armed robbery suspect shot by a Las Vegas officer on Saturday night is also accused of burglarizing a Boys & Girls Club minutes before the shooting.
Metro briefing on OIS near downtown Las Vegas
Metropolitan Police Department Capt. Kelly McMahill briefs the media on a officer-involved shooting near Ninth Street and Bonanza Road on March 19, 2019. Mike Shoro/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Man robs restaurant with large kitchen knife
On March 16, 2019, at approximately 6:00 PM, an armed robbery occurred at a local restaurant located near East Charleston and Eastern. The suspect entered the business with a large knife, demanding money from the registers. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Metro Addresses Ois At Bellagio (Full Press Conference)
Las Vegas Metro police address the officer involved shooting that took place on March 15, 2019, at the Bellagio.
Metro Addresses OIS At Bellagio
Las Vegas police address the officer involved shooting that took place on March 15, 2019, at the Bellagio. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Parents facing murder charges held without bail
Lakeia Walker and Ricky Beasley, the parents of missing 3-year-old Zaela Walker, appeared briefly in North Las Vegas Court on camera from the Clark County Detention Center as they made their first appearance in court.
Metro briefing on OIS at Bellagio
Metro Capt. Nichole Splinter briefs the media on an officer-involved shooting in front of the Bellagio on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Katelyn Newberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DUI Blitz
Metropolitan Police Department Traffic Sergeant David Stoddard discusses a law enforcement “DUI blitz” on Thursday, March 14, 2019, in the Las Vegas Valley. About 100 Metro and Nevada Highway Patrol officers searched the valley for impaired drivers between 5 p.m. Thursday and 3 a.m. Friday. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Commercial Robbery On 3000 Block Of North Las Vegas Blvd - VIDEO
On February 19th, 2019, at approximately 10:23 am, a robbery occurred to a business located on the 3000 block of North Las Vegas Boulevard. The pictured suspect entered the business, approached the counter and pointed a firearm at the victim demanding money. The victim complied and the suspect fled with an undisclosed amount of money. No injuries were reported.
Alexis Plunkett denied bail
Alexis Plunkett, the jailed Las Vegas defense lawyer enmeshed in a pair of felony cases, will remain behind bars while awaiting trial, a judge decided Thursday. (Mat Luschek /Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Bounty Hunter Chases Down Porch Pirate
A would-be thief tried to steal a package from the home of Alex Mazzola. Mazzola, a former bounty hunter, chased after the suspect.
Atkinson pleads guilty
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge Monday.
Atkinson pleads guilty to wire fraud charges
U.S. Attorney’s Office announces plea deal for charges against former Nevada Senate majority leader Kelvin Atkinson during a press conference on Monday, March 11, 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson pleads guilty
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge Monday, less than a week after resigning from his post. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Lt. Isaac Henn talks about the use of body-worn cameras in the Henderson Police Department
Lt. Isaac Henn talks about the implementation of body-worn cameras in the Henderson Police Department. (Bizuayehu tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Body Camera Footage Custody Death (FULL)
Las Vegas police showed one clip of body camera footage Wednesday to the family of a man who died in their custody three days earlier. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Metro police brief public on recent custody death
Las Vegas police showed a clip of body camera footage Wednesday to the family of a man who died in their custody three days earlier. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Police investigating possible homicide
Metro police are investigating a possible homicide near mile marker 14 on route 147. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Metro Police Press Conference On Chinatown Thefts
Las Vegas Metro Police Dept. held a press conference Wednesday to discuss crime in the Chinatown area.
Police Update on Barricade Situation on Emerson Avenue
Las Vegas Metro Police Lieutenant Michelle Tavarez provides an update on the barricade situation at Emerson Avenue.
DEA Launches New Program To Combat Opioid Epidemic
The Drug Enforcement Administration is launching a new effort in Nevada to combat the opioid epidemic.
North Las Vegas Blvd Robbery 1
Las Vegas police are asking for help finding a man suspected of robbing a business at gunpoint on the morning of Feb. 19, 2019 in the northeast valley. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
North Las Vegas Blvd Robbery 2
Las Vegas police are asking for help finding a man suspected of robbing a business at gunpoint on the morning of Feb. 19, 2019 in the northeast valley. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
North Las Vegas robbery at a business
Robbery of a business in the 1600 block of North Main Street in North Las Vegas. If you know the suspects or have seen them before please contact the North Las Vegas Police Department at 702-633-9111 or Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555.
Burglary at Made In Argentina restaurant
Pablo Rodriguez, owner of the Made in Argentina restaurant on Valley View Boulevard, describes the scene of the burglary that took place at his business on Sunday morning. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Nevada Highway Patrol vehicle hit on US 95 in Las Vegas
Nevada Highway Patrol trooper Adam Whitmarsh was on a traffic stop on U.S. Highway 95, north of Ann Road, about 7:45 a.m. Saturday, Feb 16, 2019, when a Honda CRV struck the back of the patrol car, causing the car to crash into the stopped vehicle. (Nevada Highway Patrol)
NYE Homicide suspects (1 of 2)
Las Vegas police are asking for help locating three men suspected in a deadly shooting on New Year’s Eve inside a southwest valley home. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
NYE Homicide suspects (2 of 2)
Las Vegas police are asking for help locating three men suspected in a deadly shooting on New Year’s Eve inside a southwest valley home. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Police Update on Fremont Street Shooting
Lt. Ray Spencer gives an update regarding a homicide investigation that occurred in front of a bus stop near Fremont Street and Casino Center, involving a security officer and another male.
LVMPD Looking For Blue Bucket Bandit - VIDEO
On December 31, 2018 detectives with the LVMPD Northwest Area Command Patrol Investigations Section received a report of the theft of a surveillance camera from the front porch of a residence located in the area of West Lake Mead Boulevard and North Rampart Boulevard. The victim in this case became aware of other residents in the neighborhood who had been the victim of similar crimes.
TOP NEWS
Home Front Page Footer Listing