Savagery more frequent in domestic violence attacks

Saturday , July 19, 2014 - 10:42 AM

KAYSVILLE — Sitting in the small park pavilion with ducks and geese only feet away, it’s hard to remember that just a few hours before, Tiffany Mead was in a courtroom listening to attorneys talk about a possible plea deal for the man accused of slashing her throat.

The thin, white scar, 7 inches long, a quarter of an inch wide, is a constant reminder that a year ago the Ogden woman had been attacked.

Fear fills Mead’s eyes and voice as she talks about her life with Kristopher Ertmann, whom she married shortly after her 18th birthday.

Ertmann, now her ex-husband, has been charged with attempted murder, a first-degree felony. Davis County sheriff’s deputies arrested him shortly after Mead called 911 on July 23, 2013.

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At that time, according to the probable cause affidavit, Ertmann told officers Mead cut her own throat. He was booked in the Davis County Jail on July 24, 2013, where he has been held without bail since his arrest.

Mead has attended every court hearing since. She said she hopes Ertmann at the next hearing, July 30, will enter guilty pleas to the charge, as well as to new ones. The Davis County Attorney’s Office recently filed charges accusing Ertmann of trying to hire someone from the jail to kill Mead. The two’s divorce was finalized in August of 2013.

Mead spoke to the Standard-Examiner now to let others know physical, emotional and mental abuse is not to be tolerated by anyone.

According to the Domestic Violence Statistics website, every 9 seconds across the country a woman is assaulted or beaten. Domestic violence also leads in the cause of injury to women, and up to 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence every year.



Cacey Yeates-Dyson, director for Safe Harbor Crisis Center, said 1 in 3 women in Utah report they have been a victim of some form of domestic violence at some time in their lives.

Mead, now 23, said she married Ertmann because “he was really sweet.”

In November 2009 Ertmann, a member of the Army Reserves, was deployed to Iraq.

“When he came back, things started to change and he was not the man who I married,” Mead said. “He was a very angry person. I was walking on eggshells. He punched walls. He’d throw things.”

Mead said he never hit her or their two sons, but she still lived in fear.

The couple lived with his parents and one night she was awakened by yelling and screaming. She said it was Ertmann and another family member fighting. She ran to see what was wrong and said her husband threw a TV and VCR.

“I was terrified for my babies,” Mead said.

She decided then and there, “enough was enough,” and texted her parents, who lived in Ogden, that she needed help. At 3 in the morning, with her children wrapped in blankets and just the clothes on her back, she left.

“I wasn’t going to allow him to hit me or my children,” she said.

Mead said she had left Ertmann once before, in May 2011 but returned. Typically after Ertmann had a blowup he would apologize and buy her things, she said.

She filed for divorce in 2012, but things were still rocky. Mead, who began dating, said after a few other incidents, she decided to have it out with Ertmann. He agreed to meet her at Nicholas Park in Fruit Heights the night of July 23, 2013.

The man she was dating was in the park’s parking lot in another car when Ertmann showed up, Mead said. And she had her 2-year-old son with her in her car.

Mead arrived first, then Ertmann, she said. He left his car and walked up to her.

“The look in his eyes scared me and I was backing up from him and walking around the car and he followed me,” Mead said.

Mead said Ertmann pulled her into a bear hug.

“I was at his mercy,” Mead said. “I kept telling him to let me go.”

Mead said she could not see any emotion in Ertmann’s face and then “he slit my throat.”

“I was in shock,” Mead said. “I was scared for my baby.”

Mead said Ertmann told her to get into her car and start driving. He sat in the passenger seat. He finally let her call 911, but she had to tell dispatchers she sliced her own throat.

She finally parked near Davis High School, where paramedics and emergency crews met her. She was taken to the hospital, where she spent the next three days.

Mead said she had not called police before about any domestic violence because Ertmann was on probation for another matter and she did not want him to get into more trouble.

Officials who deal with domestic violence said that is one of the typical reasons why partners will not call for help.

Physical abuse is not the only definition of domestic violence, according to Utah’s Violence & Injury Prevention Program. Sexual abuse, threats and emotional abuse can also be part of the domestic violent relationship.

Deputy Davis County Attorney Jason Nelson could not discuss any specific cases. He and another deputy attorney have prosecuted for the past three years the majority of domestic violence cases that end up in 2nd District Court.

The total number of cases have not changed over the years, although this year there was “an uptick in January and February of domestic violence cases” filed in Davis County, Nelson said.

Mark Arrington, a public defender in Davis County, said about 10 percent of his cases are domestic violence related. He has not seen an increase in numbers, but it seems to him there has been an increase in violent acts.

In most of the domestic violence cases he has, Arrington said alcohol seems to be a contributor.

Unfortunately a few domestic violence cases in Davis County recently have ended with someone dead.

Recently Kaylynn Spackman of Layton died after being stabbed to death by her husband, Joe Castillo, who has been charged with murder, Layton police said.

Stepan Badikyn of Centerville is charged with attempted murder after stabbing his wife and then trying to run over her when she tried to escape.

Jose Orozco is accused of violating a protective order to stay away from his wife and indirectly causing the May hit-and-run death of Kelly Allred in Clearfield.

Other recent horrendous cases include that of Ronald Lee Haskell, 33, from the Logan area, accused of shooting to death six members of his ex-wife’s family July 9 in Texas.

The Clearfield Police Department hopes to have in place by the end of the year a detective whose sole responsibility is to deal with domestic violence cases.

“There really is not a big increase in numbers, but it has not lowered in the 14 years I’ve been here,” said Clearfield Detective Denise Hernandez.

Hernandez said currently when officers are called to a domestic violence incident usually the perpetrator has left the scene. It can take up to a month to get a warrant for the suspect’s arrest and then another month to find the suspect.

Clearfield is hoping with its new program Hernandez will be able to follow up on domestic violence calls within a few days and help find the suspect. Also she will be follow up with the victims.

Too many times because the victims are upset they do not always remember what the officers or the victim advocate tell them, like how to get a protective order.

“When the victims have had the crap beaten out of them, they don’t always remember everything,” Hernandez said. “But after a few days when they’ve calmed down they can remember stuff.”

Also after a few days victims become reluctant to file charges because of fear of retaliation or financial concerns. They also worry that if they do file charges the state Division of Child and Family Services will take away their children, Hernandez said.

“They’re not going to take away the children,” Hernandez said.

DCFS will get involved if children are in the home, but they check to make sure the children are safe and that there is a safety plan, she said.

The state has a free hotline available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for someone to call for help. The Utah Domestic Violence Link Line is 800-897-5465.

Safe Harbor’s phone number is 801-444-9161.

Contact reporter Loretta Park at 801-625-4252 or lpark@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @LorettaParkSE. Like her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SELorettaPark.

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