The marriage ended in tragedy in January with Davis found dead of stab wounds in the couple's Baltimore apartment and Ruffin charged with first-degree murder. His lawyer, a public defender, was not present at Ruffin's arraignment Tuesday and did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Davis' family has criticized the Baltimore justice system for what members say was a failure to protect Davis from Ruffin, but court officials say the volume of cases they handle makes it difficult to determine which victims are most at risk.

The Baltimore court commissioner who released Ruffin without bail after his sixth assault arrest in late January is no longer on the job. The commissioner, Eric Gooden, did not respond to requests for comment. Officials would not discuss the circumstances of his departure.

Dorothy Lennig, director of the legal clinic at House of Ruth Maryland, said Davis' case calls for examining whether officials could have done anything differently.

"These are the hardest kinds of cases because, in retrospect, you can see the whole picture, and you can kind of see where things don't work," she said.

Protective orders

Katie Hadel's mother says Jeffrey Matthew Shiflett, the man now charged in her death, had threatened her daughter for years.

Shiflett and Hadel had a brief relationship years ago, her family said, but she had broken it off and gotten married.

Shiflett had been behind bars for a robbery he'd committed with Hadel in 2007. But by December, he had earned enough prison credit that he was required to be released on good behavior.

After his release, police advised Hadel, 33, to stay at her mother's house, where officers would check on her a few times a day. Against their advice, police said she returned to her apartment in Garrison on Feb. 5, and was stabbed to death.

Shiflett was arrested the following day and charged with first-degree murder.

Shiflett is being held without bond awaiting a preliminary hearing this month on the murder charge. His lawyer, a public defender, did not respond to several requests for comment.

Victim advocates say Hadel's case highlights the limitations of state law regarding protective and peace orders. Both kinds of orders limit contact between the two people, yet protective orders last longer and can have stronger protections.

In a protective order, a judge can order a subject to surrender firearms, leave a joint residence or provide temporary financial support. A final protective order can last up to a year, with possible extensions, while peace orders only last up to six months.

Protective orders are also more difficult to get. They are available only against a current or former spouse, a partner with whom the petitioner has a child, or live-in partner of at least three months.

Hadel made at least three requests for court protection against Shiflett but was eligible only for a peace order.

Lisae Jordan, executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said protective orders should include people who are dating or have lived with each other for less than 90 days so they cover all relationships.

"They have the same kinds of issues and dynamics that people who are living together have," she said.

But being eligible to request a protective order is only half the battle. In Maryland, a petitioner must show proof of danger before being granted a protective order. Jordan said that hurdle has been a "consistent problem" in Maryland.

Tracy West, an Anne Arundel County woman whom police say was shot by her estranged husband, tried to obtain two protective orders against him. She obtained a temporary order against Calvin Cofield on New Year's Eve, but a judge denied a permanent order, saying there was insufficient evidence that it was necessary.