A week before 36-year-old Chinika Hursey was shot to death in her Randallstown home, a Baltimore County officer police arrived at the door of her estranged husband.
The officer served Dominick Hursey with a temporary protective order telling him to stay away from her house, and told him he had to surrender any firearms, county police say.
According to police, he said he didn't have any.
Police say they checked Maryland's database of firearms purchased here, and nothing showed up in Dominick Hursey's name.
Now Dominick Hursey is charged with first-degree murder, accused of using a handgun detectives believe he purchased in Pennsylvania in 2006 to kill his wife and her boyfriend. The 43-year-old Owings Mills resident is being held without bond in the deaths of Chinika Hursey and Steven Campbell, 36.
Investigators say the couple was found dead in bed Monday morning, having been shot to death overnight while her children were in their home on Bald Eagle Court.
Jen Pauliukonis, president of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, said the state generally has strong laws "for disarming abusers" after a protective order has been filed.
"This shows a huge loophole that exists," Pauliukonis said. "When guns have been purchased out of state, we cannot learn about those in Maryland."
The idea of a national registry has been highly controversial and opposed by gun rights advocates as a threat to Second Amendment rights.
Laure Ruth, legal director for the Women's Law Center of Maryland, called the Hursey case "very concerning, " saying it raises questions about the enforcement of orders to surrender firearms.
"We've been putting the onus on the [accused abuser], who may be at this point extremely angry," she said.
Baltimore County police spokeswoman Elise Armacost said when the officer went to serve the temporary protective order on Dominick Hursey on March 27, seven days before his wife's death, the officer did not find any guns on Hursey or see them in plain view. Without a warrant, the officer could not search the home, she said.
Court records show Chinika Hursey applied for the protective order in Howard County on Feb. 25, the day she said Dominick Hursey assaulted her at an Ellicott City car dealership. She also pressed criminal charges against him.
"I fear for my life and that Dominick will try to kill me or hurt me," she wrote in the petition for the order. She referred to herself as his ex-wife, though county police have called the Hurseys estranged.
In neat cursive, she also wrote on the form, "he has several guns."
Howard County judges issued temporary protective orders against Dominick Hursey in February and March, court records show. A final order was issued March 29.
The orders told Dominick Hursey to relinquish firearms to the Howard County sheriff's office. Officials there say the paperwork was forwarded to Baltimore County because Hursey lived in Owings Mills.
Brandon Mead, a defense lawyer for Dominick Hursey, said Hursey denies the murder charges against him. Mead said he could not comment on what happened when the police officer served the protective order because he had not discussed it with his client.
Baltimore County investigators say in court documents that when they searched a vehicle that a friend of Dominick Hursey often lent to him, they found a bag containing ammunition that matched the type used in the killings. They also found a shotgun, which they do not believe was the weapon used to kill the couple.
On Friday, Baltimore County police declined to say whether they have found the gun used in the crime.
Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger declined to comment on the pending homicide case. He said in any given year, a quarter to a half of county homicides are domestic-related.
Michaele Cohen, executive director of the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence, said that in the majority of cases, "protective orders do protect people."
"She did a lot of right things, and that's what makes it particularly tragic — because she did try to seek help," Cohen said of Chinika Hursey. "We're all going to want to know was there anything else that could have been done ... We want to make sure that scenario doesn't happen to anyone else."