From the first time Payson Police Detective Mike McAnerny heard the woman’s halting and inconsistent explanation for her black eyes, battered face and broken hand, he suspected she had suffered one of the most common violent crimes in Rim Country — a nearly lethal attack inflicted by someone she loved.
It took repeated interviews, multiple conversations with her friends and finally the woman’s flight to the Valley before the terrible story came tumbling out — a tale made more terrifying by how often it happens.
As a result, prosecutors have arraigned Martin Douglas Slover, 28, on charges of attempted second-degree murder for reportedly strangling his girlfriend — charges he denied to detectives. The woman told police that Slover locked her in a bathroom for a day, then chained her to a box. As a result, Slover also faces charges of assault and kidnapping.
The 26-year-old victim initially tried to cover up the abuse, telling detectives three people jumped her on Main Street, leaving her with two black eyes, bruises and a broken hand.
Only after she fled to the Valley did the woman feel safe enough to come forward. Even then, her boyfriend’s obsessive letters from jail to her prompted police to file additional charges of influencing a witness.
Experts say women trapped in violent relationships often cover up abuse and even feel sorry for their abuser.
Not surprisingly, domestic violence remains one of the most unreported crimes, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Nationally, only one-quarter of all assaults by intimate partners are reported to police.
“Clearly, the biggest challenge is encouraging the victim to report the incident, seek assistance and follow through and assist in prosecution,” said Gila County Attorney Daisy Flores.
Domestic violence remains far-and-away the most common reported form of violence in Rim Country. Tragically, a rise in domestic violence reports locally comes just as changes in state formulas have resulted in deep cuts in the budget of Rim Country’s only domestic violence shelter.
The woman’s terrifying story unfolds in a 30-page police report by Det. McAnerny, who first suspected abuse when he interviewed the woman in Payson Regional Medical Center’s emergency room. Her battered face, swollen purple lips, taped-together fingers and black eyes spoke to persistent violence, he wrote.
The woman claimed she was walking on Main Street May 13 when two women and a man jumped out of vehicle and started punching and kicking her. Asked why she did not report the incident, the woman couldn’t answer.
She then refused to discuss the matter further, saying she simply wanted treatment for her broken hand.
When McAnerny questioned friends of the couple, however, varying accounts of how the woman got the bruises emerged. One friend said he was told that someone had beat her up in the Valley after stealing her necklace. Another thought she had been beat up on May 15.
One friend said the woman had tried to leave Slover, fleeing to the local Time Out Shelter just prior to her getting beat up.
No one McAnerny spoke with said Slover had done anything to try to find the people that had reportedly beaten up his girlfriend.
“It seemed clear to me at this point, due to the three conflicting stories and everyone’s belief of what Martin would have done if someone else did this to (victim’s name redacted), and the fact that he did not respond in that way, (it) painted a clear picture of who the suspect was in this case,” McAnerny said.
Without the woman’s cooperation, however, the case went cold.
“This fear has been instilled in them. He tells her, ‘Open your mouth and I will kill you.’”
A month later, the woman called McAnerny from the Valley and said she could finally tell the real story because she had gotten away from Slover.
“She told me that she was sorry for lying to me during my initial investigation and she now wanted to tell what happened,” he said.
On Mother’s Day, Slover had reportedly hosed the woman down in their home on East Bonita Street. The woman had called police and reported the incident. Officer Jessie Davies responded, but Slover had fled.
Shortly after Davies left, Slover returned, grabbing the woman by the hair and pulling her into the bathroom, according to McAnerny’s report.
“Once in the bathroom, he began punching her with a closed fist in the face all over her eyes and her head,” McAnerny said in the report. “He pushed her down into the bathtub where he began forcing her face down and stomping on her back. She said the he continued to beat on her several times and he was yelling at her stating that it was her fault and she was trying to get his kids taken away from him.”
Slover then allegedly choked the woman — six times in a 25-hour period, each time long enough to render her unconscious, McAnerny said.
He then left her locked in the bathroom.
“She said, the next morning, he came in and told her that he was going to have to kill her because he did not want to lose his kids over what happened,” the report states. “She said that she kept yelling and screaming and begging for him not to kill her and she kept resisting until he quit trying to choke her.”
The woman told McAnerny she did not want to disclose the abuse initially because she feared Slover would kill her.
In addition, her children were still living at the home the pair shared.
Camille Levee, executive director of Time Out Inc., said many victims do not report abuse because they fear further mistreatment.
“This fear has been instilled in them,” she said. “He tells her, ‘Open your mouth and I will kill you.’ ”
And since he has hurt you in the past, you know what he is capable of doing, she added.
“It is fear all the way around,” she said. “Fear of getting hurt, fear of getting your family hurt and fear of how you are going to survive.”
After keeping her in the bathroom 25 hours, Slover reportedly let the woman out and chained her to a wooden trunk.
Eventually, she convinced Slover to remove the chain by promising she would not leave or go tell police.
Police later arrested Slover when he left to go to the store, giving the woman time to go to the hospital.
When McAnerny questioned Slover, he repeatedly denied any abuse.
McAnerny arrested Slover on charges of kidnapping, aggravated assault and attempted second-degree murder.
No trial date for the case has been set. The next report hearing is Sept. 4. Flores said her office has not offered Slover a plea offer “at this time.”
McAnerny’s investigation continued after police booked Slover into jail.
On July 18, the Gila County Jail sent McAnerny a copy of a post card Slover had sent his mother.
In the letter, Slover asks his mother to write a statement to the court saying Slover was staying with her during the time of the alleged assault on May 13, Mother’s Day.
Slover ends the letter with this postscript, “PS the phones are recorded at visit so that is why I wrote.”
Slover’s mother refused to speak with McAnerny.
Later in July, jail officials intercepted several letters Slover had tried to send the victim.
In the letters, Slover writes that the woman should lie so the charges against him are dropped.
“He tells her that he is sorry for all that he had done to her and it was truly someone else,” McAnerny writes in the police report. “He stated that he realized he was an animal at that time. He talks about how he is awake now, is different and is away from the haze of the alcohol. He talks about how he wants to buy her stuff and wants to be a power couple with her.”
In another letter to the woman, Slover asks the woman to lie for him on the stand.
He writes that the case would be thrown out because it is built around on her statements.
“On the back of the last page (of a letter), it says, “You should burn all of these after reading them, it’s evidence,” McAnerny said.
Flores said prosecuting domestic violence cases is challenging for a variety of reasons, including gathering physical evidence.
Cases are often built around a victim and witness statements, including that of children in the home.
Sometimes victims change their mind about prosecution when the immediate threat of the event is removed. When they do, it is difficult to continue the case, but not impossible.
“This impacts viability of physical evidence,” she said. “As we all know, domestic violence impacts more than just the immediate victim and involves our most tender witnesses. For example, a child may witness an event of domestic violence, but giving evidence against one parent is daunting.”
When investigators attempted to interview the couple’s children, one child was extremely reluctant, McAnerny noted.
The child told a forensic interviewer he did not want to say anything because he did not want to get his mom or dad in trouble.
Another child verified many of the mother’s claims, saying she had seen Slover yell and hit the woman.
“Based on the information that (child’s name redacted) provided which matches the physical evidence I observed at the home, I believe Martin Slover did attempt to kill (victim’s name redacted) and during the physical altercation he broke her hand and created the numerous injuries she received.”