As the one-year anniversary of Kayden Mancuso’s death approached, I procrastinated about calling her mother.

I was hesitant to intrude on her grief.

But I made the call anyway because Kathryn Sherlock really wants to turn her family tragedy into a crusade that can help other vulnerable children. We spoke last week, the day after the first annual golf outing in Yardley to raise money for the foundation she created in her daughter’s memory, Kayden’s Korner.

The event was a success and Sherlock has turned her focus to getting a bill introduced in the Pennsylvania legislature next month that would mandate supervised visitation for parents with a history of violence or abuse. Sherlock, an emergency room nurse in Trenton, also thinks volatile parents should be required to get mental-health treatment. The proposed legislation she’s hoping to get passed is still being written and will include a requirement that judges be trained. The bill will be cosponsored by Rep. Tina Davis (D., Bucks) and Rep. Perry Warren (D., Bucks).

Davis said she started working on a version of the proposed law three years ago after hearing from a mother concerned about her child visiting her father, who was a registered sex offender. The woman refused to let the girl visit the father and wound up losing custody. Davis said she has heard similar stories from numerous other mothers and plans to introduce Kayden’s Law during the first week of September.

It was a year ago Tuesday, that Kayden’s stepfather discovered her lifeless body in her biological dad’s living room in Manayunk. She had been bludgeoned to death. Her father, Jeffrey Mancuso, 41, was dead in an upstairs bedroom.

And just like that the life of a beautiful little girl who loved unicorns and Rachel Platten’s Fight Song, was over.

News coverage of her death was intense. I’ll never forget seeing TV footage of Kayden smiling or video of her dressed in a billowy white flower girl dress at her mother’s wedding just two years earlier. She looked like a beautiful princess happily dancing around without a care in the world. It takes pure evil for a father to kill his own daughter. Mancuso put a bag over her head and left a vengeful note on her tiny body.

There are lots of horrible stories of lives cut short these days but Kayden’s stands out because of the sheer vindictiveness of it. And also because her death was entirely preventable.

After her death, Gov. Tom Wolf asked the state’s Judicial Conduct Board to review decisions by Bucks County Judge Jeffrey G. Trauger in the case.

Kayden feared her biological father. You’d think that would have been enough for the judge to have required supervised visits with Mancuso. He had a history of heavy drinking and abusive behavior toward Kayden’s mother and teachers at his daughter’s Lower Makefield Township school. Mancuso even once bit part of a man’s ear off in a New Year’s Day bar fight in South Philly. A psychiatrist diagnosed him with major depression, among other issues.

Yet, this suicidal monster was allowed unsupervised visits with Kayden every other weekend. Instead of protecting her as it should have, the system failed her big-time.

Allyson Mancuso and her niece, Kayden, at Ocean City, N.J., on Aug. 3, 2018.
Courtesy of Family
Allyson Mancuso and her niece, Kayden, at Ocean City, N.J., on Aug. 3, 2018.

Sherlock plans to spend the one-year anniversary of her daughter’s death with her family in Outer Banks, N.C. They left on Friday.

“I purposely took off knowing that her anniversary was coming up,” Sherlock told me last week. “She was killed on the 5th or 6th.”

Sherlock plans to light fireworks with her two remaining children and her husband.

“My boys are resilient. They are the loves of my life, as well," Sherlock said of her sons, now 4 and 2. "We are happy but we are different. We feel empty. We know there is something missing.”

And that something is Kayden.