Pennsbury Student’s Murder Sparks “Kayden’s Law”

Kayden Mancuso, 7, leans on her mother, Kathryn Sherlock, with her (from left) half-brother Blake, 1; stepfather Brian Sherlock; and half-brother Kyler. Photo submitted Aug. 6, 2018.

The murder-suicide killing of Kayden Mancuso, 7, seemed to stop time on Aug. 6, 2018. Now, lawmakers have introduced a bill to prevent a similar incident from happening again.

Family members, including her stepfather, found Kayden inside her father’s Philadelphia apartment. Jeffrey Mancuso, 41, had bludgeoned the rising second grader to death, then killed himself. She was ready to go back to Edgewood Elementary School in Lower Makefield in the fall.

But another controversy arose surrounding the killing. It involved Pennsylvania’s system of child custody and abuse.

A Go Fund Me page for Kayden’s funeral expenses, which raised $80,000, explains her family’s story. It states Jeff Mancuso “had a violent and storied history.” Yet the court ordered Jeff to have unsupervised visits, an indication “the system failed.”

To change the system, State Sen. Steve Santarsiero has introduced Kayden’s Law. State Reps Perry Warren and Tina Davis have also endorsed the bill.

“It is our greatest responsibility as legislators to protect the health and well-being of our children,” said Santarsiero. “Right now, Pennsylvania is not doing enough to ensure that children going through custody proceedings in our family courts are protected. Parental rights should not outweigh the safety of the children involved, especially in cases where evidence of abuse or unstable behavior are so prevalent.”

Brian Sherlock, Kayden’s stepfather, joined Kayden’s maternal grandfather Tom Giglio on a teleconference with the lawmakers Friday.

“Everything is bitter sweet that we do from here on out,” Sherlock said. Then, after a long pause, “We’re thrilled that we can get this bill in front of the House and Senate.”

Sherlock thanked Santarsiero, Warren, and Davis for introducing and advocating for the legislation.

“They’ve done such a great job with this bill that I think if this was in place prior to last August, that she’d still be here.”

Kayden’s Law would grant greater legal protections to children in family court, according to Santarsiero’s office. It would establish “an evidentiary hearing to thoroughly vet allegations of abuse” Additionally, the law would urge the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts to create a training program for judges about child abuse and domestic violence.

Santarsiero introduced the bill on Sept. 30, 2019. It is currently awaiting action.