The new measure allows victims to obtain restraining orders against stalkers with whom they have no prior relationship.

Watching as the governor Tuesday signed a bill that will give more protection to victims of stalking, Cheryl Darisse described the moment as "bittersweet."


While she was thrilled and "so grateful," Darisse said she couldn't help but feel that had the legislation been in place 10 years ago, her sister's life could have been saved.


The new measure allows victims to obtain restraining orders against stalkers with whom they have no prior relationship.


Darisse's sister, Sandra Berfield, was a waitress from Everett who, in 2000, was repeatedly stalked by a customer after she rebuffed his advances. Berfield was later killed by a small bomb the man delivered to her home.


Steven Caruso, a Medford handyman, was convicted of killing Berfield in 2003 and is serving life in prison.


"This is how I truly feel, she'd still be here today if that law was in place," Darisse said.


Because Berfield had not been dating Caruso or was not a relative or roommate, she was only able to gain a civil injunction against him in Superior Court.


State Rep. Peter Koutoujian, D-Waltham, who sponsored in the House the anti-stalking measure that was signed into law on Tuesday, said the "sick irony" is that if Berfield had agreed to date with Caruso, she could have gotten the restraining order she so desperately needed for her protection.


Koutoujian, like Darisse, believes if the law had been in place in 2000, police would have been allowed to intervene, and Berfield could still be alive today.


Darisse said back in 2000, Everett Police were waiting for Caruso to slip up and make a mistake, hoping they could arrest him before he harmed Berfield.


However, because the anti-stalking measure wasn't yet on the books, they had little recourse, she said.


Darisse vividly remembered how police were affected by Berfield's murder.


"I remember grown men walking out of my sister's apartment crying," Darisse said.


The bill took 10 years to pass. Koutoujian said there had been a couple of versions, but this year is the first time the bill made it to the House floor where it passed unanimously, as it did in the Senate.


Koutoujian credited the speakers of the House and Senate as well as Gov. Deval Patrick for helping to see the bill through to the end.


"It's a real testament to all those people that stayed on this issue," Koutoujian said.


Darisse credited Koutoujian for supporting the bill from its inception and for taking the lead on the issue.


"Rep. Koutoujian has been a supporter of this bill from the beginning," Darisse said. "I can't say enough good things about having someone like that on your side."


Richard Conn can be contacted at 781-398-8004 or rconn@cnc.com.