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Attempted Murder Case

Something happened to me in May 2006. It was so horrible that it still bothers me today. Someone tried to kill me.

It was the Friday before Mother’s Day, May 12, 2006. Our house had been for sale, but my husband had let the contract of sale expire. He lived there rent-free, as he still does today. He had put me in touch with a real estate agent to list the house. He was going out of town for a period of time, and as a result, I asked if he could see the house that Friday before he left. He agreed to meet me there in the late afternoon. She called my husband to make the appointment. In an effort to ease the situation, I also called him to try to ease the tensions between us. It was abrupt and, as usual, he hung up on me.

It had been one of those hot, muggy days we have here in the south. When I got to the house fifteen minutes early, the heavens opened up and a deluge began. The thunder was directly overhead, and lightning struck the ground around me. After a few minutes, rather than risk the lightning, I decided to go inside.

I entered through the garage as I always had. I knocked on the door that leads to the laundry room and from there to the family room and kitchen. From the laundry room, you can see part of the kitchen, but because the laundry room is carved into a corner of the family room, you can’t see that room.

My husband opened the door. At first there was a big smile on his face, but that changed the moment he saw me. He asked me what I was doing there and I informed him that he was there for the appointment. I assumed he knew he was coming as we both had to sign contracts since the house is in our name and this was something he wanted to accomplish that night before the agent left town.

At that time, I was standing in the laundry room. She grabbed me and tried to push me toward the door, but suddenly she let go of me and yelled at our son who was standing a few feet away, “Grab her. If I touch her, I’ll go to jail.” My husband had been convicted of attacking me and threatening to kill me in June of the previous year, but the records of that attack had been sealed by Judge Jeff Fairbanks.

When I walked into the laundry room, I could smell something that was sickeningly sweet. I thought it was incense. My husband loved to smoke marijuana in his youth, and my son had been smoking it for the last year or two that I knew of. He was high when he came to visit. I knew something wasn’t right. I could hear movement from the family room, but because there is a wall between the family room and the laundry room, I couldn’t see who it was. I assumed that she was my husband’s girlfriend. I asked why he wouldn’t let me into my own house. That’s when things got surreal.

At that time, my son had me by the arms and had pinned me to the door. He was six foot one and two hundred and eighty pounds. From around the corner and behind me came a figure. My mother-in-law appeared. She yelled at me to “get out of OUR house”. I told her that her house was not hers, it was half mine. That’s when she lunged at me and tried to strangle me while my son held me.

I could feel my airways closing as his grip tightened on my throat. I could hear myself gasping and trying to beg for my life. I was able to beg him to stop. When he released me, I ran to the phone that was only a few feet away, but my husband beat me to it. He pulled the rope from the wall. My mother-in-law kept yelling that it was his house and for me to leave. I remember her referring to me as “the whore” so many times in the past. For her, that is the worst thing that can be called a woman. That was the word I uttered to him in my panic.

I ran out, grabbed my cell phone from the car, and dialed 911. For some reason, it seemed like it took a long time for the police to arrive. Through the open window, he could hear them talking. I think they were talking to someone on the phone. Then I heard my son yell that because he was holding my throat, he was trying to choke me.

When the police arrived, the storm had passed. The first to arrive was a short black policeman. He never knew his name. Instead of checking to see if he was okay, he walked past me, treating me like the perpetrator, not the victim. I don’t remember if the real estate agent was already there or not. I think he was. He entered the house leaving me outside, not even stopping to check if he was okay. A few minutes later, another police car arrived.

It was the same police officer who had shown up for all the previous calls of violence. Two of those times, when my husband had physically hurt me, he refused to take pictures. This time it was no different. I always kept a disposable camera in my car in case I saw something of interest while driving. I asked the real estate agent to take pictures at the scene. Those photos clearly show the handprint on my neck. One of them even shows the officer in the background.

I asked for an ambulance to be called. When he arrived, the young man who was the attendant said that he could see the handprint on my throat. The officer had claimed that he couldn’t. Stupidly, I let the officer talk me out of going to the ER. Instead, I got in my car and drove to the doctor at the local store.

It is only 10 miles from the house from downtown Williamsburg, VA. As I was driving down Route 60, the rain started to fall again and my hand kept taking my throat. It hurts both physically and mentally. I couldn’t understand why they treated me that way. Why didn’t the police help me?
I got to the doctor’s office around 6 or 6:30, filled out the forms, and sat down and waited. I guess because of the rain, there weren’t many people there, but time passed slowly. I was finally called into the exam room.

After the usual pre-examination by the nurse, the doctor came to see me. On the chart, he noted the handprint on my throat. He was outraged that the police did not take pictures. He left the exam room and headed to the common area of ​​the inner office. I followed.

I stood by while he called the police to ask why no pictures had been taken. His demeanor changed as he listened to the person on the other end. He never looked at me again. He hung up the phone and informed me that if he wanted to, he would have to press charges before the Magistrate. He told me they would take photos. He handed the chart to the nurse to write down follow-up instructions and went into an exam room. That was the last time I saw him that night.

By now, it was dark and the deluge was once again over Williamsburg. The Magistrate’s Office is located at the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail, several miles across town. I headed there.

When I got there, it seemed like an eternity. The Magistrate took a long time to answer the bell. I told him why he was there and filled out the forms, but when I went to give them to him, he said he needed a copy of the doctor’s report. By now, it was past 8 o’clock. She didn’t know if he would be able to get back to the office in time. But I promised to try. Before I left, he told me that if my mother-in-law left town, they would not come looking for her, no matter the circumstances. I remember calling my husband and leaving a message on her machine letting him know what I had been told about her leaving town.

Somehow that night, fighting against the rain, the wind and the pain, I was able to return to the doctor’s office and to the Magistracy. On the second visit, I was allowed to file an assault charge, nothing more. They didn’t tell me who to quote. The only person I thought of was the real estate agent.

The next morning, there was blood in my sputum and marks on my arm where my son had held me. I went back to the doctor. I received a rough treatment and a brushing regarding the blood. He told me it was “normal”.

That Sunday was Mother’s Day. My husband did not allow my son to visit me. On Monday he bought her an iPod for $300, saying it was for his birthday. His birthday wasn’t until July, this was mid-May. There was a pre-trial hearing, but I was never told about it.

The trial was about a month after the incident. My mother-in-law, who had been living in the house, left town immediately after the hearing, but returned for the trial.

The day before the trial, a phone call registered on my answering machine. It was placed from a cell phone. The Deputy Attorney General of the Commonwealth left a message that he had called, nothing more. When I got home from work, I couldn’t locate it. I finally got him to answer the phone the next morning at 11:00 am He informed me that he couldn’t use the medical evidence because I didn’t call the doctor to swear the validity of it. I asked him to request an adjournment. He refused, telling me “you’re supposed to know who you are to date.”

The trial was scheduled for 2:00 p.m. I went to the doctor’s office to ask him to show up. The receptionist said it was not possible.

The yard was packed. Cases involving the appearance of attorneys were called first. It is a courtesy, as they often have to appear in more than one courtroom during a given period of time. Then the cases without lawyers were called. One by one, they were called and dispensed with. The entire time, my husband and his mother, along with his attorney, the former Commonwealth’s Attorney for James City County where the incident occurred, sat waiting on the other side of the courtroom. The attorney never handled any other cases that afternoon.

Finally, around 4 pm, with the courtroom devoid of spectators, my case was called. I went up to the podium first. My mother-in-law was dressed in an oversized dress with a large flower print covered by a sweater that was obviously 10 sizes too big. The combination visibly reduced her actual size and made her appear older than she was. She is eighty years old, but like my husband, she works out every day. She can drive across the country in the blink of an eye. In fact, she fell and broke her hip. Unlike most people her age, according to my husband and son, she was up and running in a couple of days. In a nutshell, her family lives around 100 years. She and I are about the same size. A friend at Eastern State Hospital told me that he could see her attacking me. It happens all the time in the hospital.

First they called me to the stand. The prosecutor only asked me to give my side of the story. He didn’t ask any more questions. When I mentioned that my son had held me while my mother-in-law attacked me, his lawyer objected saying that he was not there to testify because he would incriminate himself (?). I was never shown what evidence was being presented, although the prosecutor had copies of the photographs and the doctor’s reports. His lawyer questioned me, being belligerent. The prosecutor never objected. After the trial, Laura French, an employee of the district attorney’s office, walked me out of the courtroom.

Next on the dais was the real estate agent. Judging from the amount of time between my leaving the courtroom and her leaving, she did not testify or was asked any questions. When she left, she came up to me and apologized for what had happened in the courtroom. I didn’t understand that statement until after the verdict.

I never saw the police officer leave. He probably exited through the holding cells. My husband was the last to take the stand to leave the courtroom before the verdict.

When we were called back just a few minutes later, I was stunned by the verdict. The judge announced “Not guilty due to lack of evidence.”

She had heard about the Williamsburg Railroad, the way the courts and police treat women when they seek divorce for abuse. It was that day that I discovered that the railway exists.

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