LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) — Michigan has provided a sex offender registry for years, where people can search by name and location.
In a matter of weeks, Michigan will provide a child abuse offender registry that will be open to the public. It has been years in the making, and two metro Detroit moms made it happen.
“It hasn’t hit me yet. I can’t really put it into words," Erica Hammel said.
The new law is named after Hammel's 9-year-old son, Wyatt. He was 1-year-old when he was abused by his father’s girlfriend. The parents were divorced.
“Major brain bleed, fractured skull and bilateral retinal hemorrhages. They believed it to be non-accidental head trauma, also known as shaken baby syndrome,” Hammel said. “He's had four brain surgeries and three eye surgeries.”
Getting something done in Lansing isn’t easy, even if it seems like it should be.
The vote would be unanimous and take only seconds. It took 7.5 years to get here.
“We both got chills when the vote went through,” Christyne Kadlitz said.
It turns out, Wyatt would be the second child abused by the same woman. Kadlitz’s 3-year-old son Travis had been drugged and abused.
“My son ended up testing positive for seroquel, which was a manic-depressive bipolar medication that she was prescribed. She also forced him to drink dish soap. She wouldn't allow them to use the restroom, having forced him to urinate on himself,” Kadlitz said.
That woman would eventually be convicted of child abuse and served five years of a 10-year sentence.
She’s off parole and does not show up on any criminal database.
“Wyatt, unfortunately, has permanent brain damage. She gave him a life sentence and unfortunately, she's already out of prison. She got out in 2020. She's free to roam around, do whatever she wants,” Hammel said.
Kadlitz said, “It’s terrifying as a mom knowing she’s back on the streets again.”
To be clear, Wyatt's Law does not establish a searchable public database like sex offender registry. The new law requires the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to establish public access by contacting them by phone, email or web request. It could eventually become a searchable database for the public.
This long, personal, political battle is all documented on the Wyatt the Warrior Facebook page.
"Last session, it passed out of the Senate. And unfortunately, the former speaker didn’t take it up,” Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., D-East Lansing, said.
Hertel’s talking about former House Speaker Lee Chatfield, who is facing his own allegations including sexually assaulting a teenager.
Chatfield has not been charged. His investigation is ongoing.
“You could call him, but I don’t think he’s taking press calls right now,” Hertel said.
The two moms say they've come to Lansing to lobby about a hundred times over the last seven years. They are not backed by any big money special interests, just them, supporters and Wyatt.
“It’s all about Wyatt’s Law," Wyatt said.
Their work in Michigan has also led to similar child abuse offender registries to go online in Indiana, which the public can search. Another one is in the works in Utah.
This is an election year, so don’t be surprised if the governor does a ceremonial bill signing, not in Lansing but in metro Detroit.