RICHLAND, Wash. -- A Washington woman is using her personal tragedy to push for changes in Olympia. Three years ago, a maintenance man broke into Dana Widrig's Richland apartment, and brutally beat and raped her.
Her attacker, Cody Kloepper is now in prison serving a 24 year sentence but her fight to protect others is just beginning.
"He came up behind me with a big, long metal bar and started beating me in the head. I've got scars from back here all the way up here," Widrig summed up her injuries after the brutal beating and rape she endured in December of 2009. Since then, Kloepper went to trial and was convicted. Widrig received an undisclosed amount of money from a settlement civil suit against the owners and manager of Villas at Meadow Springs. And Widrig moved to the West side of the state for a new beginning.
"She will never live in an apartment ever again," said her Kennewick lawyer Kristi McKennon. "In this case, at four in the morning, a drunk maintenance man was able to walk into the manager's office and pull the key to Dana's apartment and get in," said Jay Flynn, her other attorney.
Flynn said Kloepper was able to get in because the apartment management didn't have any safety measures in place. He said although they did have a key box for all 286 units, the key to that box was not kept in a safe but instead in a coffee cup above it.
"Frankly I have to tell you we were shocked to find that there wasn't some law on the books that says a landlord has a particular duty to protect these keys. There just was nothing," said McKennon after going through the criminal and civil cases. Dana Widrig was also shocked to discover that and joined forces with McKennon to make some changes.
The two traveled to Olympia last week to introduce House Bill 1647,a bill that would change to the Landlord Tenant Act to require landlords to use "outmost care" when protecting and securing duplicate resident keys. The Bill is authored and sponsored by Rep. Gael Tarelton from the 36th District and co-sponsored by Larry Haler of the 8th District.
"I had to fix this... I couldn't just sit back and know this information and let somebody else go through what I went through," said Widrig.
McKennon said they're not trying to burden landlords with unnecessary expenses,and that most apartment complexes have the tools already but they're just not using them. "They're just not doing it and that's what happened in our case. There were safeguards, there were polIcies there were procedures..they just weren't being followed,"said McKennon.