The former Travis County deputy suspected of fatally shooting three people in Northwest Austin Sunday was left largely unsupervised by the criminal justice system months after his daughter and his wife asserted in sworn affidavits that they feared he would hurt them.
An examination of court records shows Stephen Broderick, a former property crimes detective with the Travis County sheriff’s office, spent 16 days in jail last summer on charges of sexually assaulting a child family member.
Broderick, 41, then posted bail, which was set at $50,000, on June 22. The courts ordered him not contact or go within 200 feet of his daughter. Broderick also was ordered to wear a GPS tracking device.
But five months after his release, with his case still pending, a Travis County judge ordered the removal of the device on Nov. 5. Broderick’s lawyer argued in a written motion to the court that Broderick had worn the electronic monitor for 142 days with no substantial violations and that it should be removed.
State District Judge Karen Sage agreed, a decision that left Broderick largely unsupervised months after his daughter and his wife asserted they feared for their safety with Broderick out of jail.
Police did not identify the shooting victims Sunday, saying only that those killed were two women and a man. Officials said a child related to the case was safe and in police custody.
Officials said the attack, which happened just before noon in an apartment complex near the Arboretum shopping area, was an act of domestic violence. Broderick and his wife, who filed for divorce after his arrest, have two children. Court documents show that while Broderick was barred from contact with his daughter, he still had visitation rights to see his son once a month.
In an interview with the American-Statesman Sunday, Sage said she typically agrees to remove tracking devices when a defendant has exhibited a pattern of compliance and has not incurred any violations. Sage, who left in place Broderick’s no-contact and distancing stipulations, said she rarely keeps defendants on GPS tracking for more than 90 days if they have been compliant.
“He had been on GPS for (five) months with no violations,” Sage said. “It’s a pretty common thing for me to do, frankly.”
A manhunt involving local authorities, as well as the FBI, was underway Sunday, and officials said they do not know if Broderick was on foot or in a vehicle.
Broderick’s bail conditions required him to surrender all firearms and not obtain any new ones. In an application for a protective order after Broderick’s arrest, his wife, Amanda Broderick, said she worried about her safety and that of their children.
“I’m afraid he will try to hurt me or my children, because these allegations have come out and he may lose his career,” she stated. “Stephen has prior military experience and is SWAT trained. If he wanted to hurt someone, he would know how.”
The decision by Sage to remove the tracking device underscores the increased challenges facing judges during the ongoing national conversation on criminal justice reform.
Progressive activists pushing for bail reform want judges to grant no-cost personal bonds to people accused of many violent and non-violent offenses. This, activists say, allows the accused to work and provide for their families as they fight the charges against them.
In weighing bond decisions, judges are to consider the community’s safety and the likelihood of the defendant showing up for court dates.
Prior to granting the order to remove the monitoring device, Sage reviewed allegations from Travis County prosecutors that Broderick had violated the terms of an emergency protective order in the child sexual assault case. The order prohibited Broderick from contacting the child, a younger sibling or his wife.
On July 6, prosecutors filed a motion to increase Broderick’s bond, alleging that he had sent an email accusing his wife of a “cash grab” and attached multiple images depicting her undressed and engaged in sexual acts.
Sage granted the motion, increasing Broderick’s bond to $75,000.
Kelsey McKay, a former Travis County prosecutor and national expert on family violence, said the criminal justice system has not figured out how best to identify dangerous offenders. McKay said Sage typically is careful with bond decisions for family violence cases.
“In my experience, she’s quite cautious and mindful on these cases,” Kelsey McKay said.
Broderick’s daughter, who was 16 when she made the outcry of sexual assault, stated in the application for a protective order that she felt unsafe with her father out of jail.
“I felt safe after my dad had been arrested and he was in jail, but now that he’s out I don’t feel safe,” she wrote. “I’m afraid that to him, a protective order will be just a piece of paper. I’m worried that he’ll come after my family and try to take my brother. I’m afraid that he might hurt me or my mom for coming forward.”
Lytza Rojas, the lawyer representing Broderick, declined to comment for this story.
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