Thursday, July 23, 2009

Man who kidnapped, raped, bit wife sentenced to 24 years in prison

Yesterday, Madison County Circuit Court Associate Judge James Hackett sentenced a Granite City, IL man to 24 years in prison for attacking and raping his estranged wife July 11, 2008. Because at least 85% of Class X sentences must be served, he will be in prison until 2030 at least.

Thomas Byrd, 32, of Granite City plead guilty to home invasion and aggravated assault after the attack on the victim. The couple was separated and in the process of divorcing before the attack. This was the 3rd conviction regarding the same victim – previous convictions included a burglary and a Missouri conviction for sexual assault. There was an outstanding order of protection against Byrd.

Authorities said that on the day Byrd was placed on probation in the burglary case, he went back to the victim's house, heaved a brick against an exterior door to open it, then ran upstairs to break into her locked bedroom.

The victim said in her impact statement that she kept a knife in her bedroom to protect herself from him. After attacking her, Byrd took the knife from her and threatened her with it until she quit resisting. "She was afraid if she didn't, she was going to die," Fischer said.

After raping her, Byrd put his wife in a car, rolled up the windows and locked the doors. "I told her, 'You're fixin' to die,'" he reportedly told her. He drove her at 90 mph into St. Louis, where she attempted to get free by trying to cause a traffic crash.

Byrd then took her to a side road, where he bit off a chunk of the side of her face.

The victim impact statement said that while she had surgery for the bite wounds, the psychological wounds will always remain. She also has trouble sleeping and driving with the car windows down.

Defense attorney Scott Turner argued that, while the crime was brutal, there was a reason behind it. His client is a drug and alcohol addict who grew up without a father. The life he spent with his victim was the only lifestyle he knows, Turner argued. "It's not an excuse; it's an explanation," Turner argued.

The judge praised Turner for his argument but said it did not work. "The explanation isn't persuasive," he said.

Judge Hackett did find Assistant Madison County State's Attorney John Fischer’s closing argument persuasive.

"This goes beyond brutal and heinous. This is something out of a horror film, Fischer said," while Hackett agreed. "We can't allow people to behave this way.”

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