Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Troy man pleads guilty to choking woman

The Western News | March 28, 2023 7:00 AM

A Troy man recently pleaded guilty to assaulting his girlfriend in a roadside incident in January.

Vernon Watters, 36, entered the plea to felony strangulation of a partner or family member in Lincoln County District Court on March 13 in front of Judge Matt Cuffe. He will be sentenced on April 24.

Other charges, including possession of dangerous drugs, drug paraphernalia and destruction of a communication device, were dismissed against Watters.

Watters, who held his head in his hands at times during the hearing, said his memory of the day was spotty, but he did admit he choked her.

According to the charging document filed by Lincoln County Attorney Marcia Boris, the case began on Jan. 28 when county Deputy James Derryberry was driving west on U.S. 2 near mile marker 27 when he saw a vehicle pulled over on the shoulder. He saw a man pacing and personal belongings scattered outside the vehicle. The deputy decided to do a welfare check.

Derryberry said he recognized Watters from having prior law enforcement contact. He also saw a woman in the driver’s seat. The officer saw scratches and blood on Watters’ face. He said they came from when he was out cutting firewood then said he got the cuts when he ran through some brush.

He said the items scattered on the ground belonged to them and they were trying to find his girlfriend’s phone. Later, Watters said the woman scratched him in the face. The deputy reported that Watters’ story kept changing and that he could smell alcohol on the man.

When Derryberry spoke to the woman, she began to cry. She then agreed to come to his patrol vehicle to talk with him. She cried again and said, “Thank God. Thank God you guys showed up.”

She said she was in an intimate, off and on relationship for a few years with Watters and that they had a child together. She also said when they were driving together, Watters, “freaked out and went berserk on her when they were driving.”

She also said he grabbed at her, tried to grab the keys out of the ignition and tried to grab her phone while she was driving. She said she pulled over on the shoulder of the highway because she was fearful Watters was going to cause her to crash the vehicle.

She also told Derryberry he attacked her and sat on her chest in an attempt to get her phone. She said she “clawed” his face in an effort to get him off her. She said she was hyperventilating and began to throw up. She said they both got out of the car and she grabbed his hoodie to try and get her phone back. She said he then “choke body slammed” her into the embankment, according to the charging document.

The victim said Watters then put her in a choke hold, then got his legs wrapped around her neck and began to squeeze. She thought he was going to kill her. She said she couldn’t breath and nearly passed out. She said he knelt on her neck with all his body weight and was pushing down on her. She said these actions caused her to urinate in her pants. She also told Derryberry that Watters takes her phone so she can’t call for help.

The officer reported seeing a red mark on the left side of her jaw and neck that was swollen as well as a cut on her finger. She said her back and shoulders were injured. Those injuries were later confirmed at the county jail when Detention Officer Patti Regh took photos of the victim’s injuries. Derryberry also said he saw a photo of a chunk of hair from the woman’s head that was consistent with hair being pulled out during a struggle.

When Derryberry spoke with Watters, he gave different accounts of the incident. He said he tried to run away, but that no matter what he did, she would overpower him. He said he only put his hands on her when he tried to get away, according to court documents.

When the officer told Watters he was going to be arrested for partner family member assault, the defendant allegedly said he would fight the charge and he had already got three of those dropped.

A third deputy, Ben Fisher, had arrived and he told Derryberry he saw Watters standing on a green prescription bottle while trying to push it down into the snow. Fisher picked up the bottle, saw Watters’ name on it and found a snort tube, white residue and a folded piece of paper. The white residue field tested positive for methamphetamine.

Derryberry said when he began to walk back to his patrol vehicle, Watters ran about 40 feet before he fell down in some thick brush.

The victim said Watters assaulted her every month and a half to two months. She said during the last incident he choked her. She also said the most frightening event of violence between her and Watters was, “Tonight. Tonight.”

Derryberry reported Watters had one prior charge of misdemeanor partner family member assault on Feb. 5, 2021.