GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The little boy who loved his dog, his sisters and his toys lost his life at the hands of his own father last fall.

Dylan Thebo was murdered by his father at his father’s Lowell Township home on Aug. 31, 2021. Derek Thebo then died by suicide.

Dylan’s mother says the signs of trouble were well-documented.

“I think people aren’t believed. Because with especially the psychological abuse and the coercive control, people can’t see that,” Katie Hall said. “I feel like we fell through the cracks… And when we did, we were able to point out and see room for improvement and changes.”

More specifically, changes in attitude toward domestic abuse victims.

Hall approached Kent County’s Domestic Violence Community Coordinated Response Team, asking it to review the case.

“I didn’t want to react emotionally. I wanted to present evidence and facts so that we can come together and implement changes,” Hall said.

The review found that despite examples reported to several agencies from the courts to police to Children’s Protective Services, Derek Thebo’s mental instability was basically dismissed.

“When you try and explain what’s happening, you look and sound crazy, which takes away your credibility,” Hall said.

Hall asked for a PPO but Thebo challenged it. The domestic violence task force review team said both parties were encouraged to enter into a mutual restraining order, requiring them not to have contact with each other unless it involved Dylan.

“When you go to protect yourself through the PPO, it was said that it was trying to get a one-up in the divorce, to get hand up in divorce,” Hall said.

Without the PPO, Derek Thebo was able to buy the gun he sued to kill Dylan and himself.

The task force released a series of recommendations about how systems can better support and protect domestic violence survivors. One was to stop telling them to use a mutual restraining order instead of a PPO.

The recommendations come as domestic violence incidents rose in West Michigan and across the country amid the stress of the pandemic. Two domestic-related murders happened in the city of Wyoming last week alone.

“It does happen and it is always popping up, so I think it’s always a good time to be taking a look at what can be done better and what can we do to prevent those in the future, because they’re horrible for everyone involved,” Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said at the Thursday press conference announcing the recommendations.

The release of the recommendations has given Hall new hope.

“If these recommendations are even able to save one person’s life, if they can implement a policy, if someone through training is able to see a pattern and recognize factors, then it was all worth it,” she said.