Case 1: She pounded frantically on her neighbor’s front door at midnight, pleading, “Please let me in, my husband just beat the s* out of me.” The alarmed neighbor opened the door to find a young woman standing on her front step, a lump on her head. The woman explained that her partner beat her with the door handle to the oven while their five children watched. She adds, “Please don’t call the cops.”
Case 2: She arrives at the hospital with her face battered, her lips swollen purple and several broken fingers taped-together. Hospital officials call for police, but when they arrive, she makes up a story — says three people jumped her on Main Street and then drove away.
These recent cases, which are currently working their way through the court system, exemplify the complexity and terror of domestic violence cases in Rim Country, with victims afraid to seek help. As a consequence, although domestic violence remains one of the most common violent crimes in Rim Country — experts suspect fewer than half of assaults ever get reported to the police. Sometimes women hope things will change, sometimes they fear losing their children.
Meanwhile, intimate violence continues to spur suicides, murders, assaults, divorce and damage to children, often helpless witnesses to the violence. Last year, Payson police investigated 240 domestic violence cases and made 202 arrests.
The Time Out Shelter last night staged a march and vigil for victims of domestic violence along the highway through the center of Payson. The shelter has suffered deep cuts in state and federal funding, but continues to help victims leave violent relationships. Those are the lucky ones: Last year, Payson’s first murder in years involved a man who killed his estranged wife and then himself after she threatened divorce.
Such cases continue to make headlines. Just this week, the acting Tonto Apache Police chief reportedly shot at his wife’s vehicle at least 25 times with his department-issued assault rifle after she filed for divorce. She escaped uninjured.
One study found domestic violence occurs in police officer homes at nearly double the rate of the rest of the population.
“If these allegations prove true, it is a sad example of the extremes that domestic violence can reach,” said Brad Carlyon, Navajo County attorney. “And another example of why we must all take steps to end domestic violence and protect the victims.”
Another man in Payson Sunday night reportedly took his own life in the heat of an argument with his wife.
The stories are all too common.
In one case currently working its way through the court system, a man is accused of abusing both his children and his partner.
The criminal case of Scott Dwain Bridges, illustrates how domestic violence can carry on for months and unravel a whole family.
Bridges is accused of beating his partner on a near-daily basis and turning on his children several times when they intervened to stop the abuse, according to a Gila County Sheriff’s Office report.
During his investigation, GCSO deputy Pete Licavoli discovered from witnesses that Bridges reportedly beat his partner with the handle of an oven one night and used his fists on other nights.
The abuse only came to light when two people, who asked to remain anonymous, approached then-Pine School Principal Mike Clark and asked for help.
Clark notified police and school resource officer Licavoli began an investigation that would unravel an abuse case.
The investigation started in March. Licavoli learned that Bridges had allegedly beaten his partner repeatedly, hitting her with a bottle and threatening to kill her. The woman, however, refused to press charges, fearing retaliation.
She finally sought help at a neighbor’s home March 24, then left with her mother for Globe.
After the women left, however, Bridges waited by the neighbor’s home until 8 a.m., believing his partner was hiding there.
Earlier in the month, the neighbor reported to deputies that she got a call from one of the couple’s children who told her the couple was fighting after Bridges accused his partner of infidelity. “The fighting is an everyday occurrence. It is happening every single day,” Licavoli wrote.
One child later told deputies they were afraid to report the abuse because Bridges had told them he would kill their mother if they did. Another child said Bridges hit them when they tried to protect their mother.
The neighbor said she had seen injuries on the woman every day for nearly three months and knew Bridges had cracked the woman’s head open at least three times, once with a bottle, according to the police report.
The neighbor told Licavoli she had never seen anyone “wail” on their kids like that and that it was just “mind boggling.”
When deputies and Child Protective Services interviewed the couple’s five children, some said they had seen abuse and others said everything was fine. Deputies found animal feces on the floor of the home along with trash and empty liquor bottles, according to the police report.
When questioned, Bridges’ partner told deputies she loved Bridges and had a hard time leaving him.
But her children told police that their father goes “psycho crazy” on her, according to the police report.
In May, a grand jury indicted Bridges on four counts of child abuse/domestic violence, three counts of aggravated assault on a child under 15 and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, the oven handle.
The next case management hearing in the case is Nov. 12.
In another domestic violence case set for trial Nov. 5, a man is accused of strangling his girlfriend, locking her in a bathroom and then chaining her to a box. Martin Douglas Slover faces second-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated assault charges in his upcoming trial.
His girlfriend initially tried to cover up the abuse when she showed up at the hospital badly battered by telling Payson detectives three people jumped her.
Only after she fled to the Valley did the woman tell officers what had really happened.
The horrific details emerged in a 30-page police report.
On Mother’s Day, Slover reportedly hosed the woman down in their home on East Bonita Street. When she called police, Slover fled.
Shortly after officers left, Slover returned, grabbing the woman by the hair and pulling her into the bathroom, according to Det. Mike 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 wrote. “He pushed her down into the bathtub where he began forcing her face down and stomping on her back. She said 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 unconscious — six times in a 25-hour period, 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 disclose the abuse because she feared Slover would kill her. In addition, her children were still living at the home they shared.
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. 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. Most abusers deny any wrongdoing to police.
For information on escaping domestic violence, call the Time Out Shelter at (928) 472-8007.