Her batterer is sent to prison following a year-long ordeal

March 10, 2000|By ANDREA ROWLAND

See also: 'We still have a lot of work to do with the public'

Bernadette Nicholas had been beaten so severely her brain was swollen, her cheekbone was shattered and she lost most of the hearing in one ear.

On Nov. 30, 1999, Washington County Circuit Judge Ralph France sentenced her batterer, David Eugene Guyer, to eight years in prison.

It was one of the stiffest sentences ever handed down by a judge in a domestic battery case, according to State's Attorney M. Kenneth Long Jr.


It wasn't the first time the judge had seen Guyer.

Just nine months earlier, in February 1999, he had given Guyer probation before judgment and fined him $300 for beating Nicholas once before.

'No one would help'

Nicholas lived in Smithsburg. Guyer, 26, lived in Fayetteville, Pa.

"He would beat me up in Maryland then run to Pennsylvania," she said.

She often turned to police and courts for help only to find that red tape masked her hope for safety, Nicholas said.

"Every time I'd get up on the ladder I felt I'd get kicked down again," she said.

But Nicholas perservered.

She was granted a temporary protective order, which Guyer would violate.

She called Smithsburg police, the Washington County Sheriff's Department and Pennsylvania State Police when Guyer repeatedly returned to her property, often to be told there was nothing the police could do because of jurisdictional conflicts or because Guyer was already gone, Nicholas said.

"I felt like I was the one being penalized because no one would help me," she said.

She followed Guyer's case through visits to the Washington County District Court, his anger management counselor in Chambersburg, Pa., and calls to the State's Attorney's Office and Guyer's probation officer in Hagerstown.

She sought counseling from Women in Need, a domestic violence shelter in Chambersburg, Nicholas said.

She gathered all the evidence she could find to support her case before Judge France in November 1999 - nearly one year after the first assault, she said.

The first attack

The initial attack occurred two days before Christmas in 1998, according to court documents.

Guyer, who had dated Nicholas for almost four months, spent the night of Dec. 22, 1998, at her Smithsburg apartment, she said.

Her two children, ages 10 and 7, were with their father, Nicholas said.

When Nicholas refused to cook Guyer's breakfast and pack his lunch early on the morning of Dec. 23, he punched her in the face, breaking a tooth, she said.

"I was shocked," Nicholas said.

She ran downstairs.

Guyer followed her, pulled her from a chair and threw her to the floor, according to court records.

Neighbors heard her screams and called police while Nicholas watched Guyer rip the doors off a closet and tear down the Christmas tree, she said.

"I was scared," Nicholas said. "I was really scared."

The Washington County Sheriff's Department deputy who responded to the scene saw a bloody, raised area around Nicholas's left eye and a bleeding cut on her left ring finger, according to court documents.

He offered Nicholas a referral card from Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused in Hagerstown, she said.

The deputy handcuffed Guyer, and led him to the children's empty bedroom, Nicholas said.

There, the policeman told the abuser, "This is why we don't tolerate domestic violence in the state of Maryland- children suffer," Nicholas said.

Guyer was charged with second-degree assault, ordered not to contact Nicholas, and released on his own recognizance, according to court records.

Just hours later, after her children had returned home, Nicholas spotted Guyer in her backyard, she said. She ran inside and dialed 911.

A deputy responded, but couldn't do anything because Guyer had left, Nicholas said.

The next morning, Nicholas obtained a temporary ex parte order to keep Guyer away from her. Within two days, he was back at her apartment.

Nicholas was baking cookies inside and her children were outside sledding when Guyer approached her son, 10, she said. The child "freaked" and ran inside, where Nicholas again dialed 911, she said.

The emergency dispatcher told her nothing could be done because Guyer hadn't spoken directly to her or set foot in her apartment, Nicholas said.

About a week later, she was granted a one-year protection order.

Guyer again came to her apartment complex on Jan. 17, 1999, when his brother slipped a "call Dave" note in Nicholas' door as Guyer visited with a neighbor in the same complex, she said.

Nicholas called 911.

A deputy called her back and told her that Guyer could visit anyone he wanted as long as he wasn't "harassing, stalking or abusing me," Nicholas said.

"I was very angry and frustrated," she said.

'I truly love you'

Nicholas accepted a call from Guyer four days later. He asked her to sign some paperwork and help him with anger management counseling in Chambersburg, she said.

"He said, 'I truly love you and can't live without you,'" Nicholas said. "I was scared, but I loved him and wanted to see what he had to say."

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