'Melanie's Law' Closing Loophole That Led To Hudson Valley Mom's Killing Passes Assembly

Two years after a young mother from New York was stabbed to death by her mother’s ex-boyfriend, state lawmakers have passed legislation aimed at closing the dangerous loophole that led to her killing.

Paul Senecal was found guilty of first-degree murder in the May 2022 death of Wappinger resident Melanie Chianese.

Paul Senecal was found guilty of first-degree murder in the May 2022 death of Wappinger resident Melanie Chianese.

Photo Credit: Dutchess County Sheriff's Office // McHoul Funeral Home

On Tuesday, May 21, the New York Assembly passed “Melanie’s Law,” allowing judges to expand orders of protection for immediate family members or household members of named victims of domestic violence, regardless of their age.

The legislation is named after Melanie Chianese, who was stabbed to death on May 29, 2022, inside the Dutchess County residence in Wappingers Falls that she shared with her mother and 3-year-old son.

Sheriff’s deputies found Chianese after responding to a home on Scott Drive for a report of a woman being injured. Investigators eventually determined that the man behind the knife was 38-year-old Paul Senecal, a former boyfriend of Chianese’s mother who was angry over being rejected.

At the time of the killing, Senecal was out on bail with an ankle monitor after pleading guilty to a domestic violence felony, according to the bill’s text.

A protection order was issued for Chianese’s mother and son, but because of her age and the fact that she did not have an intimate relationship with Senecal, the court denied her request for her own protection order.

Senecal was found guilty of murder and related charges by a Dutchess County jury in February 2023. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Democratic Assemblymember Brian Cunningham, whose 43rd District covers parts of Brooklyn, was the prime sponsor of the bill. In a post on X following its passage, he said the legislation is very personal to him.

“I traveled to Dutchess County to meet Melanie’s son Miles and l heard directly from her mother Cheryl who fought to get this bill introduced,” he said.

“I heard from victims and families across New York State who shared their personal Domestic Violence stories and how this bill would have changed their lives if it existed. I look forward to seeing our governor sign this important legislation into law.”

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