Tragic Pattern

Tag-team beating highlights domestic violence trends, statistics

Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence |

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The arrest last week of two men for allegedly beating, strangling and imprisoning a Payson woman illuminated the tragically common pattern of domestic violence cases in Rim Country.

Police had investigated reports of loud arguments and violent fights repeatedly at the Frontier Street apartment, only to have the participants refuse to make a report or cooperate. When the final call came, police confronted a blood-spattered house and a victim who reported her boyfriend and his father had set upon her, held her down and taken turns battering her. She wound up with a concussion and other wounds.

The case illustrates the pattern of domestic violence, where a mean word turns into a threat, then a demand, a push, a punch and maybe even an attempt on a life. The fabric of the relationship ends up riddled with black and blue marks The abusive episodes stretch together over weeks and sometimes years, the decision to leave can take just as long to make.

In Payson, records reveal officers are often called to the same address repeatedly. Often, the first time or two they don’t make an arrest. Often, the victim refuses to cooperate — sometimes out of fear, sometimes out of hope — and prosecutors drop the charges. Sometimes, police file reports and the county attorney’s office elects not to prosecute.

Tragically, the patterns persist — and escalate — and officers come back time after time.

Surprisingly, in Payson such cases rarely involve married couples. In fact, statistics from last year show those arrested for domestic violence are most often a live-in partner or co-parent with the victim and not a spouse. In fact, live-in boyfriends and girlfriends accounted for 73 of the roughly 220 domestic violence arrests in 2011, compared to just 33 involving a husband or a wife. Batterers with an unspecified relationship with the victim accounted for another 73 cases.

The recent domestic violence case perfectly illustrates those trends.

Police were called to an apartment at Aspen Cove, 801 E. Frontier St., twice before making an arrest.

Once in March and again in December, officers received calls from neighbors about arguing at the home. Both times, the unmarried couple told officers they would calm down and go to bed. They said they had argued many times before, sometimes getting loud, but never physical.

Both times, officers left without making an arrest.

Then on Dec. 29, a day after officers had responded to a 911 call from the home, they got another call about arguing, this time from a concerned neighbor.

Then dispatchers got a call from inside the home, a woman struggling for breath on the other end. He managed to choke out “Aspen” before the line went dead.

The call came in just before 10 p.m., again on par with statistics. Of the 220 domestic violence calls that ended in arrests last year, 31 percent happened between 6 p.m. and midnight — higher than any other time of day.

Familiar with the home, officers knew there were guns inside.

When they arrived at the apartment Dec. 29, they heard arguing and a woman yelling to open the door.

Officers kicked down the door and found a bloody mess, according to police reports.

They threw the woman’s boyfriend, Zachary King Smith, 23, also covered in blood, to the ground. He reportedly resisted and officers used a Taser to calm him down, according to records.

The woman, also 23 and covered in blood, lay on the bed topless, a blanket around her shoulders.

Officers noted the spray of blood had spattered even a pet rat.

Officers asked the woman what had happened. She said Zachary and his father, Jerry Martin Smith, 57, had “tag-teamed” her, taking turns beating her up and strangling her.

She said the men had been drinking and, at some point, they grew violent. It is unclear what led up to the argument or violence, but the woman said she had feared for her life. She said she even hid one of the guns in the bathroom so they could not find it, according to a police report.

When officers questioned Zachary, he denied knowing what had happened in the apartment, saying his girlfriend was aggressive and could get physical.

He said he would never hit her because “he loved her more than life itself,” according to police records.

The woman said both men had hit her, even taking turns holding her down so the other could strike. At one point, she lost consciousness. When she tried to run, she said they grabbed her and tore her shirt off.

Later, the woman told officers she felt like she had done something to anger the men, but didn’t know what.

The woman was treated for a broken nose, contusions, a concussion and a cervical strain, according to police reports.

Jerry, meanwhile, allegedly told officers he was a business owner and should therefore be released.

Both men bonded out on $25,000 bonds.

Each faces charges of kidnapping and aggravated assault. Zachary also faces resisting arrest, domestic violence, criminal damage and strangling.

The arrest of two alleged assailants distinguished the case from the pattern of domestic violence cases. In nearly three-quarters of all domestic violence calls, only one person is arrested. It is rare for officers to make two arrests on one call.

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