Prosecutors call incidents surprisingly common in family violence cases
By Tricia Bishop
published in The Baltimore Sun, October 20, 2009
A 24-year-old Baltimore man was sentenced to 15 years in prison Monday for biting off a portion of his former girlfriend’s nose, a disturbingly intimate form of violence that prosecutors say is surprisingly prevalent in family violence cases.
Charles Bowers pleaded guilty to first- and second-degree assault last month in the 2008 incident, which followed an argument over house keys.
Judge Alfred Nance recommended that Bowers be allowed to serve his sentence at Patuxent Institution, a correctional mental health facility in Jessup, and that the young man, who said he grew up in an abusive home, be referred for psychiatric evaluation and treatment.
“I’ve been a victim of my emotions since I was 6,” Bowers told the court, issuing a seemingly sincere apology and begging for help. “My biggest fear,” he said, is it “possibly happening again.”
Assistant State’s Attorney Julie Drake, head of the city’s Felony Family Violence Division, said a fatality review team made biting a focus this year after realizing a murdered woman’s body showed signs of previous bite marks.
“That was really kind of a trigger for us to start thinking about the whole issue,” Drake said.
Last week, she recommended to a criminal justice panel that biting be included in routine medical screenings for domestic violence and on petition forms for protective orders. She also asked that medical personnel be trained to look for bite marks in the hopes of preventing further aggression and to document potential forensic evidence.
“Whenever you can intervene earlier, you stand the greatest chance of preventing either a homicide or more serious domestic violence down the road,” Drake said.
During Monday’s sentencing, the victim, who asked The Baltimore Sun to withhold her name for safety, sat near the back of the courtroom. She said she was still too afraid of Bowers to approach the trial table.
Prosecutor Eileen Murphy read the woman’s statement to the court.
She’s had three plastic surgeries already, and though she looks whole, she still needs several more, which she can’t afford. She can’t bear to have her picture taken. She’s ashamed and still in shock, looking in the mirror and still unable to believe “the mess” she sees.
“How can a person who claims to love you so much,” Murphy read, “do something so horrific?”
Copyright © 2009, The Baltimore Sun