2014-08-27 / News

After fight, gasoline dousing, victim refuses to take stand

By Ben Orcutt

Kirkbride Kirkbride A Chesterfield County man charged with strangulation, attempting to set a person on fire and breaking and entering caught a break last week when his female victim denied that the alleged events occurred and refused to testify.

Charles K. Kirkbride, 51, was scheduled for a preliminary hearing in General District Court last week on felony charges of strangulation, attempted malicious injury by acid/ explosive/fire and breaking and entering the residence of his female friend.

According to a complaint form on file in court records, when police arrived at a motel on Jefferson Davis Highway on June 2, they found Kirkbride standing on top of the victim, who was on the ground. After police separated the two, the victim said that she had an injured knee and throat as a result of her encounter with Kirkbride. The incident began when Kirkbride got jealous of a friend of the victim and an argument ensued, she told police. The victim also told police that Kirkbride poured gasoline on her and told her he was going to set her on fire.

When the victim entered her residence to change her shirt, Kirkbride followed her, grabbed her hair, pulled her outside and threw her on the ground, she told police.

Kirkbride struck her in the head a number of times and also strangled her, according to the complaint form. The victim also told authorities that Kirkbride kicked her and spit on her and that the attack lasted about 30 minutes.

“[The victim] was screaming for someone to call the police the whole time and thought that [Kirkbride] was going to kill her,” the complaint states.

Despite the victim’s hysteria immediately following the attack, she had a change of heart and refused to testify, denying that she had been attacked at all, according to Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Laura S. Khawaja.

Without testimony from the victim, Khawaja told Judge James J. O’Connell III that she was going to have to reduce the strangulation charge to misdemeanor assault – police were able to see visible marks on the woman’s neck – but drop the other two felony charges.

Kirkbride, who was represented by defense attorney William J. Rogers Sr., pleaded guilty to the amended charge and was sentenced to 12 months in jail, with six months suspended.

There have been 2,929 domestic-related arrests in the county since Jan. 1, 2012, with 643 this year as of Aug. 19, according to the Chesterfield County Police Department.

Victims’ testimony against their abusers is vital in helping to curb domestic violence, according to Patricia Jones-Turner, coordinator of the Chesterfield Domestic and Sexual Violence Resource Center.

“It is crucial for victims to follow up in order to ensure that the abuser is held accountable for their actions,” Jones-Turner said in an email. “However, there are many reasons why a victim may not follow through with the legal process. Some victims are afraid because the abuser has threatened to harm them and/or their children if they follow through with their court case.”

Abusers often intimidate their victims in other ways, Jones-Turner said, including having “family members or friends” intimidate the victim.

“Victims of domestic violence have nowhere to go for shelter in Chesterfield County,” Jones-Turner said. “Therefore, due to lack of monetary support they may return to the abuser or the abuser’s family for financial support.”

In addition to offering free counseling, the Chesterfield Domestic and Sexual Violence Resource Center provides support groups and works with organizations who are interested in developing shelters within the county, Jones-Turner said.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. For information on upcoming events and services provided by the Chesterfield Domestic and Sexual Violence Resource Center, call 318-8265.

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