What Domestic Violence Looks Like.
The Brieanna Norwood Story
A Woman’s Fight for Life
By Vicki Marie | 2018
Brieanna’s real-life story is an in-depth look of What Domestic Violence Looks like starting from the time she was a young teenage girl who fell in love with a handsome and charming older boy/man, their relationship and all the warning signs leading up to the day of the horrifically brutal attack on her life, to the warrior she is today. Share this story with your daughters, with your sisters, mothers, friends and family. You never know who could need your help. Brieanna’s story could save a life – the life of someone you love.
She was only sixteen when she fell in love with David, who was 7 years her senior. David made Brieanna feel special – like a princess. This older boy, a man really at 23-years-old, had picked her. He was so very good looking and all her friends would “Ooh and Aww” when he would pick her up after school in his hotrod. Brieanna was on top of the world – “like I was so lucky.”
“To this day, he is still the most handsome to look at man I’ve ever seen!”
Brieanna was so in love – so happy. She was too young, too naïve, and too in love to really understand – to fully comprehend the red flags that were waving around – they were more than waving actually – they were popping off like fireworks on the 4th of July. But, she was in love. Brieanna was the perfect “target” for David. She was young, beautiful, innocent, trusting, and completely smitten by this beautiful man.
At 16, Brieanna was a single teenage mom, as she got pregnant the first time she had ever sex (“yes, he wore a condom”). In her mind, the teenage boys she knew were not going to fulfill the family life that she dreamed of. You see, since she was a little girl, Brieanna dreamed of of being a wife and a mother, as many little girls do. And there was David, like a beautiful knight in shining armor, making her dreams come true.
David was older and more mature, he was accepting of her child, and her son Jeremy had already begun calling him, “Dada.” David had a life going on – or at least more than 16-year-old high school boys did – so even her family found it more acceptable for her to date David under the circumstances. And, at 16 she was ready to have a family. He said he wanted that too – with her.
Brieanna grew up in a loving home where her parents had a healthy relationship. She was never exposed to “this kind of thing – there was never any talk about it.” The only case of Domestic Violence she knew of was the O.J. Simpson case – and that happened when she was a baby so she didn’t really live it like the rest of America did back then.
Domestic Violence was never discussed and, “Honestly, I felt like I was the only one. I didn’t know there was help. I didn’t know the patters and cycles of abuse.”
David was from Blythe, CA, “This crappy little desert town where there is nothing to do, so all they did (David and his friends) was hang out, drink beer, and party.” David was born and raised there, brought up by his grandmother primarily because his mother was on drugs, and his dad used to beat him.
His mother had “fixed her life” and came back into the picture wanting to make up for the “crappy life” she had dealt David – a drug addicted mother and an abusive father – right around the same time David started getting into trouble. So, David went to live with her. Then he meets Brieanna.
David was working at a car wash when Brieanna met him. “He had all these dreams – he was going to go to college – he was getting his life together.” So, in her young mind this was all great. He had dreams – like her – big dreams. But, in reality, he wasn’t really doing anything with those dreams, still he had them nonetheless. She was too young to know any better. Her 16-year-old self was so impressed with those 23-year-old dreams and those dreams included her and her son.
The physical abuse didn’t start until she was 18 when her and David got a house and they moved in together. Those red flags that had been waving and popping off all around her for two years hadn’t registered with her yet. Like the time that he had thrown away all her makeup and she was upset – but he told her she didn’t need it. She thought, “Oh wow, he thinks I’m so pretty I don’t need makeup.”
“I was so naïve to the fact that that was very controlling.”
And, when he insisted on being with her everywhere and with everything she did – even with her best friends, she thought, “Oh he just misses me so much – he loves me so much he doesn’t want to be away from me.” Then there was the time he insisted she get his name tattooed on her back (which is now covered up). She was now his – his property – she belonged to him – his name on her back proved as much. Of course, she didn’t see it that way then.
Once they moved in together things were good for a short while, but then David couldn’t hide his alcohol abuse from Brieanna like he could when they were dating. He was drinking – a lot. When he drank, he would become “very very mean.” David would start nitpicking, nothing she said or did would be right. He would initiate fights out of nothing – anything really. He would just look for things to start a fight over. If she kept quiet it was, “What’s wrong with you? You don’t have a voice? You don’t wanna say anything?” When she did speak up and have a voice, it was, “Shut the fuck up.”
At times, it would just go on and on, so she would lock herself and her son in the bathroom to try to get away from the constant badgering – the constant picking and goading. He would then attempt to break down the door. She says this wasn’t happening in front of her son at first – but eventually it did. Still, in her mind she was justifying this behavior by telling herself he was drunk and he didn’t mean it.
She still wasn’t seeing the signs – those red-hot waving 4th of July firework warning signs.
Eventually, Brieanna wanted to leave David and go back home to her family. But, by then the isolation had already been happening. Once they moved in together their time as a family was spent with his mom, with his family, and he kept trying to convince her that her family was “against him.” On top of that, she hadn’t told anyone anything negative about David. She was still holding onto the happily-ever-after fairy tale she dreamed of. She wasn’t about to tell her parents or her friends. And remember, he was drunk when he did those things so he didn’t really mean it … right?
David had separated her from everything and everybody. The only friends she had were his friends. He had made her quit her job telling her that it was his job to provide for the family, and that her job was to stay home and take care of the house and kids. He would tell her he didn’t trust her at work – he was
afraid she was talking to co-workers – that she might have a friend. He would take the phone with him when he left so she couldn’t talk to anyone. Remember, back in those days there were no cell phones so he took the phone out of the wall and took it with him. So, she spent her days cleaning, caring for her son, and watching romance movies dreaming of what it would be like to have “that life.”
David was becoming more and more irresponsible and selfish. He just wanted to have fun. Everything was revolving around him, what he wanted, what he wanted to do. He would spend all his money on himself partying and drinking. He stopped caring about responsibilities and the promises he made. And, because he controlled all the money – well, wasting it more than controlling it – she was forced to write bad checks to feed her and her son because they were starving – he didn’t care. He refused to give her any money even for food.
Brieanna did everything she could do to please him. She was the best girlfriend she could be – the best mother – the best housekeeper – the best cook. Nothing was ever good enough. She was doing everything right in her mind – everything she knew how to do – but it was never good enough. Never.
The first-time David hit Brieanna was in their backyard. She can’t remember what he was so upset about, “But within a split second he hit me in the face with a chair.” Things started to take a turn for the worse. He upped the ante and instead of just nitpicking and badgering her – he would now get right up in her face with his fists while in a full-on rage and say, “I just wanna fuck you up – someday I’m gonna fuckin’ hurt you – you just make me so mad.” When she flinched he would get even more angry. Things were getting so bad that Brieanna didn’t want any kind of sexual intimacy with him so he would, “Force himself upon me” and “Get upset that I wasn’t into it.”
Then, there were the times it was “so good” and the honeymoon would begin. He would apologize, bring her flowers, take her out, be kind, do things for her, and she would think, “Ok, he does love me – it’s just because he was drinking – or because we were so stressed out.”
She had no idea about patterns of abuse – and of course that he would do it again. She didn’t know this was a cycle. She didn’t even know a cycle existed. And, “I really believed him – every time.”
We talked about the time he had wrecked her car when he drove them into a 9 ft canal of water – they were drowning – her arm was stuck/caught in the seatbelt – and he made her tell the authorities that she had been driving. Thank God, her son was not with them when that happened. His car seat was completely submerged – he would have died.
Due to financial troubles, they were losing the house and Brieanna was thinking, “Good, now I can move back home with mom and dad.” But, before that happened – boom she finds out she’s pregnant. So, together they moved in with his mom instead. She is all of 19-years-old now.
The abuse intensified after moving in with David’s mom. She was “evil” and “supported everything he did and was equally verbally abusive.” Now Brieanna was teamed up on. She was pregnant with her second child, being abused verbally and physically, miserable, still isolated, and he was back to partying and drinking all the time.
David decided one day he was going to quit his job and stay home. Now that he wasn’t working he “allowed” her to go back to work. “David comes and goes with his thinking,” so Brieanna never knew what to expect. He would just suddenly “demand” something. “One day he thinks and says one thing and then it could change in the blink of an eye.” She couldn’t keep up. At least she was able to buy another car (remember David drove the last one into a 9 ft canal) with money she had been saving now that she’s allowed to work again.
When Brieanna was 5 months pregnant, David and Brieanna, along with his family went on a camping trip. David had been drinking – of course – when he started “dicing” or “pulling the e-brake and spinning out.” She was feeling so sick – she was 5 months pregnant – and he was dicing with her new car. Brieanna asked him to stop so he pulled her out of the car and started beating her, kicking her, kicking her in the stomach – when she was 5 months pregnant.
She ran over to his aunt who got her away from David. Brieanna “hid” at his aunt’s house terrified David would find her. Then suddenly, Brieanna started bleeding. She was terrified thinking she was having a miscarriage. “The car was now broken down from his stupidity – and I’m stuck there at his aunt’s house thinking I’m losing my baby.”
That was it. She finally left David.
Brieanna still wanted her parents to like David, and accept him, so she hid what life had really been like with him. They only knew that they had a fight and she came home. She didn’t want them to look “bad upon” her for staying and she didn’t want them to look bad upon him because in her mind, they were going to work things out – and this time things were going to be good.
After a few months of staying with her parents, David did what he does best, and she believed him – again. During the separation, it was all about how sorry he was, that he had a job and was working again, that they were having a baby together, that they are a family… she went back.
But, her parents were somewhat on to him at that point – they just didn’t know the extent of it. “They just thought he was a loser who couldn’t hold down a job and was controlling.” Brieanna was very good at portraying the perfect family life. That was her dream after all.
Brieanna and David have a baby boy, Blake, and for the first few months things were wonderful. They started a business, a very successful mobile auto detailing business with some big contracts detailing fleet vehicles. David was a doting father and things were great – for a few months. Brieanna was still the “perfect” wife and mother. She woke at 3 am every day to cook him breakfast and make him a hot lunch to take to work. She has a newborn and is working the business keeping the books, so she also has a full-time job on top of caring for David and the boys.
One day, while she was cooking, he decided he didn’t like what she was making him. She was holding the baby when, “All of a sudden he clocked me so hard I flew across the kitchen with the baby in my arms and I remember him looking at me and saying if you ever make me hit you again while you’re holding my child I will kill you.”
David often would use the baby as a tool to keep her right where he wanted her. He would threaten to take the baby – and she believed him. She started praying a lot, but she didn’t see any resolution to the issue, and she came to terms that this was going to be her life – this was going to be her fairy tale.
The other fairy tale she had dreamed of as a child still lived on in her mind. There were times with David that were good enough – good enough to keep her holding on, and keep her believing in him. She was raised that you stay and work things out in a relationship – you don’t quit or give up. She already had a son by someone else that David has been raising as his own and now they have baby Blake together. And, you don’t quit your family.
After Blake was born, David refused to allow Brieanna to take her birth control pills. He would take them away and tell her that it was God’s will if she got pregnant again. And she did – just before Blake was a year old – she was pregnant again. After Chase was born they didn’t go through the honeymoon months like when Blake was a baby – those days were long gone. “Things escalated tremendously after that.”
David had been working out of town a lot on business. They still had the detailing business but the money mysteriously wasn’t coming in anymore. While he was out of town she got a job as a cocktail waitress at night and David’s mother would watch the 3 boys while she was at work. Brieanna started gaining a little bit of confidence after meeting a new friend at work. She started to trust her new friend, but only enough to let her know a little bit of what she was living with at home.
The tips were coming in – good – and she was keeping all the extra money she could from him. He was out of town a lot, and in fact she didn’t even mind. She was starting to be happy again. She started to build some confidence and feel some independence again. She didn’t even care where he was or what he was doing. It felt that good.
But, David stopped traveling and going out of town. He was home all the time and her short reprieve from the abuse ensued. By now, Brieanna was getting close to being able to leave him – for good. With the little bit of newly found confidence, she packed up the boys, and they went home to her parents once again.
This time, David knew Brieanna had had enough. He sensed the change in her and he knew he was losing her. He convinced Brieanna to bring the boys over to his mother’s house for a visit. Brieanna had never questioned the safety of her children with David. Her safety – sure – but not the boys’ safety. Other than the threats he made during fights that he would take the boys from her, a threat to keep her living in fear, she believed David to be a wonderful loving father to the boys. So, she agreed to bring the boys over for a visit and he could watch the boys while she went to work.
Once she arrived, she hauled up the diaper bag with the bottles, diapers, and all the other things babies need. She had left the kids strapped in their car seats while she ran upstairs, as she couldn’t carry both boys and everything else up all at once. When she got inside the door, David quickly grabbed her by the back of the neck, had a fist full of her hair, and he shoved her head right into the door frame. He shoved her with such force that instantly blood was everywhere. He had broken her nose right when she walked in the door. There was nothing leading up to this attack. There was no provocation. There was no warning.
He then dragged her down the stairs to the car where Blake and Chase are still strapped in – throws her in the car – and he starts driving. Her eldest son, Jeremy, was at school. David has just kidnapped Brieanna and their two small children.
Scared and confused, she starts questioning him on where they are going, what was he doing, and why. She kept telling David that she had to go to work, that they had to go back, that she couldn’t leave with him, and David said, “No you’re not going to work today you fuckin’ bitch – you try to leave me – these are my kids.”
He continues hitting her in the face – over and over – and blood is everywhere. David keeps telling her he is going to “murder” her. He’s telling her that he is going to take off with the boys and she’s never going to see them again. She keeps trying to talk to him – she’s trying to reason with him – pleading with him. She is telling him, “But I love you.” She was desperately trying to manipulate the situation but it wasn’t working.
The boys were in the back seat crying hysterically. They were hungry, upset, and scared. Everything to care for the boys had been left at the apartment. All she could do is try to console them.
They were running out of gas so David had to pull into a gas station to get fuel. She told him she needed to use the restroom and didn’t want to pee all over the car. David said, “I’m gonna watch you – I’m gonna be parked right here in front – if you try to talk to anybody I’ll drive away with these kids.” She knew he meant it. He would take off with her babies and he knew he had that against her. But, she knew she had to do something.
He made her wipe the blood off her face with one of his shirts he had in the car before he allowed her to go in the gas station – but she still looked a horrible mess. He told her to wash herself up more in the bathroom.
She didn’t know exactly what she was going to do or how she was going to do it without David catching her but she knew she needed help. Thankfully, she had an eyeliner in her pocket from earlier that morning. She used the eyeliner to write a note begging for help on a piece of paper towel from the bathroom. She walked out knowing he was watching her but she prayed to God he wouldn’t catch her and that someone would help her. She didn’t crumble up the note all the way – but just enough that he wouldn’t see her drop it – she wanted someone to find it and not throw it away thinking it was trash. He didn’t see Brieanna drop the note. She gets back in the car – hoping – praying that someone would find it and they would be saved.
“I’ve been kidnapped – call 911” with a description of the van, the license number, and the road they were traveling on was written in eyeliner on a gas station paper towel. Crumpled and dropped on the floor for someone, anyone to find. She kept praying someone would find it.
While driving, David kept telling Brieanna he was going to kill her – that he was going to stone her to death and said, “You’re going to suffer worse than Jesus Christ suffered.” At this point she had already been abused so much she knew this was real and he would kill her if someone didn’t find them. This attack was the most David had physically assaulted her at one time, as he continuously kept hitting her while they are driving. His rage never ceased. She remembers gaging and choking on all the blood – she couldn’t breathe very well – and she kept praying.
Suddenly, the traffic starts backing up and they come to a full stop. They are out in the middle of the desert heading out toward Blythe. David was saying, “What the Hell,” as a traffic jam was
uncharacteristic for that area. But, in her mind, she knew it was for her. She knew they were stopping and checking all the cars. She knew she was going to be saved.
When they arrived at the checkpoint they saw her – she nodded – and with one look, “They got him out of the car and arrested him.” Brieanna and the babies were safe. For now.
That was the first time she notified the police – the first time she filed charges – the first time she had ever told anyone or ever asked anyone for help. That would be a hindering factor with sentencing later on. David’s mother immediately bailed him out of jail and he was free. There was no emergency Protection Order granted. It was 2003.
The police had been looking for Brieanna at home because she hadn’t shown to pick up her son after school. The school called the house to try to reach her. That’s when her parents knew something was terribly wrong. Finally, Brieanna told her parents – not all of it – only that he had taken her against her will. She still didn’t tell them everything – how bad it was – she was still protecting everyone but her.
Up until this point, everyone on the outside looking in thought Brieanna had a perfect life. She is beautiful, she has a handsome man, a beautiful family – and nobody knew. No one.
Brieanna was scared when she found out David had made bail and was released from jail. She wanted to get away – far away – even for a few days. So, she took the kids up to Northern California, to Jeremy’s biological father’s house.
When they got back home she learned that David had been calling – nonstop. Her parents begged her not to talk to him and she got a little upset and told her parents to stop answering her phone calls. About a week after the kidnapping she answered his call. She was surprised that he was so calm. “It was a little scary – but he was so calm and nice.” Her mind was a “mess” and Blake had been asking for his dad….
A day-or-two later, Chase was at the hospital for some minor medical issues. David found out they were at the hospital and he showed up too. “He comes in with flowers – he’s writing I love you on the white board where the nurses write – he was being so loving – eerily nice – looking back I knew it was creepy – but I was just rolling with it.” She wanted things to be “normal.” David was telling her he knows that she doesn’t want to be with him anymore, but that he wants to be a good dad, and it’s all about the boys. He was making her think that he was okay with her not being with him. She goes home that night with the baby after he is medically cleared. She was considering letting David see the boys. He is their father after all.
The next day, February 25, 2003, it is pouring rain and she had some errands to run. Her mom keeps the baby, Chase, at home with her. Brieanna didn’t want to take Chase out in the rain, as he’s been sick, so she had Blake and Jeremy with her. While on the way taking Jeremy to Kindergarten, she noticed David was following her in his mom’s car. He knew her routine and it was easy to find her. David followed her to the school. She walked Jeremy to the front doors, kissed him goodbye, and told him to have a wonderful day and that she’d pick him up after school.
David caught up with Brieanna and was saying things like, “Please I just want to see my sons.” Brieanna said he was being so kind so she believed him – again. And, Blake was crying for his dad. In her mind, David was still a good dad, and he loved his boys.
Brieanna agrees to take Blake over to David’s mom’s apartment for a while so David could spend time with Blake and she could go run her errands without any kids. Before taking Blake to David’s she stops at her parent’s home where her and the boys were staying. Her mom had taken the phone off the hook because David had been calling all morning looking for Brieanna and wanting to see the boys. Brieanna’s mom begs her not to take Blake over to David, but she convinced her mom everything was fine. She told her mom that David was calm – that he was different and being kind – and that she trusted him with Blake.
Before leaving, she hurriedly wrote a few quotes down on a piece of paper – some scriptures – some inspirational sayings. She was trying to help David – to let him know he was going to be okay without her. She was trying to make him okay without her.
They get to David’s and she takes Blake inside. She hands David the paper with the quotes and scriptures she had written down for him, and he takes it and puts it in his pocket.
She turned to leave and David grabs her by the back of the neck and he says, “You’re not going to like this.” He instantly gets her into the bedroom, got her down on the bed, and she never had a chance. He sat on her, over her body with her arms down by her side and his legs over her – even her arms – pinning her down so she couldn’t move. She was completely trapped underneath him and he just starts,
“Wailing – I’m talking he broke every bone in my face, he knocked my teeth out, he started biting my face and I said, I love you why are you doing this, and that made him extremely angry. He started ripping my tongue out, he started ripping flesh out of my mouth….. And, Blake… Blake was screaming dada stop, and he’s screaming, and he comes and sits by me and he’s stroking my hair to tries to comfort me. At this point I am bleeding so bad I am bleeding out of my ears. I can’t even breath because I’m choking on blood. He is still on top of me while my son is crying and begging David to stop. Blake still is trying to comfort me, and this goes on for about 45 minutes. I was beaten to a pulp – I mean beaten – my abdomen – he started biting my whole body …
Then he said, “What I’m doing isn’t selfish” – she says I’ll never forget these words – he says, “I’m going to kill you and you’re going to sit on a pedestal in Heaven and then I’m going to kill myself and suffer in Hell for you.” At this point, he starts strangling her. He strangles her completely unconscious three separate times.
The first time, she comes to and he is still over her. She remembers looking up at him and he was red, and he was full of rage. There was nothing she could do. She remembers thinking, “Why did I come back here, why? I could’ve just said no. I could be safe right now. And, I’m thinking of my son and I’m so scared, and I think he’s going to kill Blake too then – he’s going to kill us all.” Brieanna had recently heard on the news a situation where a man had killed his entire family and then killed himself – and so that keeps playing in her mind.
During the second time, she remembers trying to focus on anything she could because the pain of not being able to breathe is worse than any other pain. “I can’t explain it to you – the anxiety that goes through your mind – and the pain of not being able to breathe is something that is horrific… horrific.”
She remembers the ceiling, she remembers trying to make pictures out of the spackle like when you make pictures out of the clouds. She tried to find a focus point like she had learned in labor skills. And, “so the second time I don’t die – I come back.”
The third time, “I was so certain I was going to die that – I compare it to if someone has you in a helicopter and they are flying over an erupting volcano and they drop you down – on the way down you know you’re going to die – I mean there’s no way you’re going to live – I know I was going to die so I start saying my death prayers.” Brieanna never once asked God to save her – she had accepted her death – but she prayed for her son.
She started seeing pictures in her mind – like a movie – pictures of her as a child. She sees herself dressing up in her mom’s wedding vail. And, “I’m looking into the eyes of the man I was going to marry who is trying to murder me.”
Blake is still next to her covered in his mother’s blood. He’s screaming. He’s begging his dada to stop. And, Brieanna just “slips out.” When she comes back she thought she had died and was in Heaven because she sees bright light – but then she sees his face come into focus and she realizes she’s still alive.
David then rips all her clothes off. She is completely naked and David says, “Bitch, I’m gonna rape you first. I’m gonna fuck you one last time before you die.” Blake is still at her head.
He had gotten off her to rip her clothes off her body. She is completely nude and he leaves the room for a moment. She knew that was her only opportunity to do anything. She had already accepted death – so death was no so scary for her anymore – she was going to die. “I know this – but my son – I’m so scared for my baby. I remember trying to get a good look at my son but my eyes were so swollen and full of blood all I could see was a red blur.”
David comes back moments later with a wooden baseball bat and a knife in his hands. He started walking towards her and says, “Bitch, you’re gonna be dead in 3 minutes – you don’t wanna die – but you’re about to die” and then he started laughing. He lit a cigarette. She remembers looking at him, as best she could see through swollen and blood-filled eyes, looking at her son, and making the split-second decision to ….
She knew that this attack was premeditated. Prior to her getting to David’s he had placed foil on all the windows so that nobody could see anything. There were apartments that were equal to them and you could see straight across into neighbor’s windows. Nobody had heard anything. It was pouring torrential rains and the booming thunder was drowning out any sounds she attempted. Anytime she made a noise he would rip her flesh from her body and try to suffocate her.
“I looked at him, I looked at my son, I said I love you to my son – and I looked at him and said Fuck You, and I jumped head first out that window – naked.”
David was so quick. He caught her fall. He’s holding her by the ankle trying to pull her back up. The glass is shredding her – literally ripping her body apart. Brieanna is trying to protect her face when a piece of glass pierces her main artery on her left wrist.
Now she is hanging upside down out the window, bleeding to death, but she was not going back in that window. She was kicking and trying to fight with everything she had left in her. She tried to scream for help but it was so hard because of all the blood from being hung upside down was choking her. She screamed loud enough though – abruptly he just let go. She was two stories up when she plummets head first to the ground into a broken, beaten, bitten, twisted, bloody, naked heap.
I hit the concrete so incredibly hard that my soul came out of my body – I can never explain to you – it’s a feeling I will never forget. It’s like you have the weight of an elephant on you when you hit that ground – it’s so heavy and hard. I really feel like my soul came out of my body like it was huuaah – just the way my body buckled – I’ll never forget it. I can’t even think of something to compare it to other than an incredible force and pressure and pain so extreme that like I came out – like huuaah – you know – like it was that horrific.”
Brieanna fell two stories – a little over 30 feet. Her injuries were extensive to say the least, but the adrenaline, and her will to live was greater than her physical injuries. “Humans are remarkable.”
She looked up and his head had disappeared from the window so she knew he was coming for her. The ability to do what she was about to do was incredible – she got up and started running. She didn’t know it but the day before they had put in a chain length fence. Not knowing it was there Brieanna ran right into it. She was knocked down. She somehow managed to climb over the fence and then up over a giant dumpster to get to the main street, which was about 3 blocks up the alley.
Brieanna is running completely naked, broken and bleeding to death, slipping in the rain – and she hears footsteps. “Like in a Freddy Kruger movie he’s coming for me and every time I back he’s closer.” She almost makes it to the main street when he catches her knocking her to the ground. He drags her by the hair over the asphalt and starts bashing her head into a pole in a carport.
Brieanna is running completely naked, broken and bleeding to death, slipping in the rain – and she hears footsteps. “Like in a Freddy Kruger movie he’s coming for me and every time I back he’s closer.” She almost makes it to the main street when he catches her knocking her to the ground. He drags her by the hair over the asphalt and starts bashing her head into a pole in a carport.
Two maintenance men who were working in an empty apartment thankfully heard the commotion and came to her rescue. David takes off running. Her only thought was “Oh my God, my baby.” She was saying, “He’s got my baby, somebody get my baby.”
One man stayed with Brieanna, calls 911, and the other ran after David. A shower curtain was used to cover Brieanna’s naked broken body. Brieanna is “convulsing” in a puddle of her blood, yet she is so terrified that David is going to kill Blake that she somehow has the strength to get up again and starts to run. She is so sure he’s going to kill Blake – everything was so certain – he’s serious and he’s not going to stop.
She runs and tries to get into random apartments – she doesn’t know what she’s doing – she’s in shock. Brieanna said, “They have pictures of my bloody handprints and pools of blood mixed with rain water up and down all these hallways, on the doors, and windows and everything.” Her injuries are too extensive and she finally collapses. She is almost lifeless.
The maintenance man quickly finds her and once again covers her naked body – this time with his own hoodie he ripped in half. Brieanna remembers her last thoughts were “not knowing if my son was alive – not knowing what had happened to my baby.”
What Brieanna didn’t know at that time was that the other maintenance worker caught up to David at his apartment. David had grabbed Blake and was holding him hostage – holding his own son by the throat. The maintenance man got his arm broke trying to get through the door while David was trying to keep him out.
Brieanna hears, “Move it move it I’m not getting a pulse.” She has been fading in and out – mostly out. She could feel the rainwater on her skin. She felt her body being placed onto a gurney and felt the neck brace being put on. What she wasn’t aware of is paramedics called a life flight to the scene. It had landed in a parking structure next door to the apartment complex. She would be life-flighted to the hospital due to her extensive life-threatening injuries.
“If you throw a China plate on the floor – I was nude – I was bleeding – they didn’t know what the Hell – I had internal injuries – I’m convulsing – I’m in shock.”
Brieanna had no idea she was in a helicopter. She regained semi-consciousness for a brief moment during flight. She saw IV bags and someone over her – and she remembers them trying to hold her eyes open and asking her, “What’s your name” and telling her to, “Stay with us.” She remembers saying, “I’m dying” and he said, “We’re doing the best we can – stay with me.”
She was out again.
There was a police officer on scene who was commanded to leave Brieanna so he could lead in the search for David. He went against his direct orders and stayed with her. He stayed with her on the helicopter. He held her hand. When she woke up in the trauma center he was still there. Later he came to visit her when she was home. He had a daughter named Brieanna – she was 9 – and he said, “I couldn’t let you die alone.”
He lost a promotion over that.
Back at the apartments the maintenance worker had somehow convinced David to let Blake go before the police arrived. David took off running on foot wearing nothing but his boxes (he had stripped down when he was going to rape Brieanna). Law Enforcement had all the streets closed off – there were helicopters aiding in the search – they had the dogs out – all in the massive manhunt for David. A man who two weeks prior had no criminal history. They found him – well the dogs found him. His legs got, “chewed up real good.” David was found hiding in a ravine behind a grocery store.
For some reason, Blake had found screaming outside the apartment in the pouring rain, crying out hysterically, “momma momma.” Thank God, Blake had not been physically injured. Psychologically and emotionally that is another story.
Brieanna is beginning to regain consciousness in the trauma center. At first, she was confused thinking she had been abducted by aliens, as there were so many bright lights and dozens of people over her prodding and poking. And then all at once the pain hit.
“I could feel everything and I wished I wasn’t alive. I was in so much pain that they couldn’t even do the CAT scan and they had to keep taking me out to give me more morphine – I was screaming in pain. I had hundreds of pieces of glass stuck in my body so I’m like stuck to these sheets with glass and dried blood and my injuries are so horrific and I’m in so much pain…”
Officers arrived at Brieanna’s parent’s home notifying that Brieanna had been assaulted, had to be airlifted to the hospital, and that they had sent an officer to the school to pick up Jeremy. The school had just called Brieanna’s mom saying Brieanna hadn’t picked Jeremy up from school and was heading out the door when the officers arrived and notified her what was happening. Another officer brings Blake from the scene to the house and they are escorted to the hospital with all 3 boys.
When they arrive at the hospital, staff immediately takes her parents into a family room by themselves separating them from the boys. Brieanna’s mom thought they were going to tell her that her daughter was
dead. Instead, they were informed of Brieanna’s dire condition, and what David had done to her. Instinctively, her mom wanted to go to her daughter, to be with her, to see her but she looked so “horrid” that hospital staff wouldn’t let her mom go back to see her yet. I’m sure they were trying to save Brieanna’s life and that also played a role in the delay to family being allowed to go back in the trauma unit. Her step-dad, who Brieanna calls her “father”, tells the staff that Brieanna needs someone with her – that she needs to know someone is there for her – that they are there for her – and he told the staff, “I’m a man I can handle this.” So, they reluctantly agree to let him see her.
Brieanna is in and out of consciousness and she remembers being wheeled down a hall and she felt her father’s hand holding hers. She remembers looking up at him – and that he turned and looked away. “I thought oh my God, he can’t look at me – I realized he couldn’t even look at me.” When they first let Brieanna’s mom go back to see her, she walked right out of the room saying, “that’s not my daughter.” She didn’t recognize her own baby girl. Brieanna said, “I didn’t even look like a human being.”
“My injuries … oh, my injuries were missing teeth, broken jaw, broken nose, broken cheek bones, blunt force trauma, swelling and leaking of my brain, 6 broken ribs, broken elbow, broken leg, broken vertebrae, one of my kidneys was destroyed, the spinal damage at that point was not known exactly how bad it was, my main artery in my left wrist was cut open, my hand was basically falling off, hundreds of pieces of glass shredded all over. I was black, blue, purple, red, burgundy, every color of the rainbow. I was bitten everywhere. Severe nerve damage, I had to learn to walk again.”
On top of her physical injuries she was also worried about how she was going to get through this physically – how she was going to survive – and how she was going to get through this emotionally – and how she was going to take care of her children. Brieanna was in the hospital for about 5 weeks and had to
learn to walk again. Brieanna was transferred to the rehabilitation unit in the hospital for continued medical care, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. It was a long, physically exhausting and painful process. She was still in a wheelchair when she went home. When she was released from the hospital they had showed her where the helicopter had landed – she didn’t remember the helicopter ride. She had always wanted to ride in a helicopter – but not like that.
While Brieanna was in the hospital she had told her mom about a dream she had about that day. She had dreamed that her grandmother, who died when she was 7 months pregnant with Blake, had carried her over a chain-length fence. She had no memory of going over a fence that day. Her mom told Brieanna that she did go over a fence that day. Brieanna told her mom “no” there is no chain-length fence at the apartment and her mom said, “Yes, there is!”
“They showed me pictures where it bent at the top where I had gone over it – so I feel like my grandmother did carry me over it because I don’t know how I was able to do all this.”
Brieanna arrived home from the hospital to learn everything she owned had been stolen, “There was nothing left but the wallpaper.” People knew she was in the hospital and David was in jail and they took absolutely everything. They had the clothes on their backs and the few of their belongings that were at her parent’s house, as her and the boys had been staying with her parents when the final attack happened. She had to start over with almost nothing. They had lost the business, she lost her car, she couldn’t pay bills, she went into debt, she had to start over with “every single thing – including to walk again.”
“Life will never be the same but I’ll tell you – the best comparison I can give is like the movie the Wizard of Oz when it goes from black-and-white to color – that’s what life’s like for me. Everything became clear. I get chills. I found my voice again. I appreciated every little thing. I would rather walk than be in a car because I want to see the flowers and the bugs and I realized, because to this day, I look back and I still can’t even believe I lived. I remember the exact feeling of surety that – that’s it. And, actually I died, I went somewhere else, which has completely enhanced my faith. I wouldn’t even call it faith – I call it surety – I know for sure – I know for a fact that there is something after this. I am no longer afraid to die.”
David was convicted and found guilty on only 3 out of the 8 felony charges he faced for the heinous attack on Brieanna. He had had a clean criminal record, up until two weeks prior to the attack when he kidnapped Brieanna and the boys. Brieanna had never called the police, had never reported the abuse, and that played a big role in David’s sentencing.
The judge openly told told Brieanna at the sentencing hearing, “You know what – had you reported any of this he would have had priors and I could’ve given him the book.” The judge was very upset.
“That’s another thing that I so stress – you have to report it. Had I reported any of those things before he would still be in prison.
David was sentenced to 9 years, 8 months in prison. The judge was floored. The judge said that in his 20 years of being a judge, that he was ashamed of the justice system that day, that he has served on death penalty cases and that David was just as bad, he said he was sitting in the presence of a murderer, I mean I died, I had no pulse.
It was premeditated attempted murder. The justice system … it sucks. There were witnesses – everything you could imagine – and this was still the outcome.”
Years later after the trial, a woman who had been on Brieanna’s jury ran into Brieanna’s mom at a grocery story. She told Brieanna’s mother that the verdict happened the way it did because of one young female juror who thought David was “so hot.” Brieanna said, “So, that one juror messed everything up.”
Brieanna was disappointed in the justice system after the trial so she went to school and got her Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. She quickly learned she was not going to change the court system so instead she became a crime victim advocate to help other victims of violent crimes. That was empowering and really helped her to rebuild confidence. “And, that was a definite key factor in my healing.”
“Statistically, 85 % of victims are aged 16-to-24. Twenty (20) people a MINUTE are physically assaulted. Over 10 million victims a year, just in the US.” Brieanna says, “When you are in that situation, it is very hard to leave. Take my story and word for it though, GET OUT NOW before it is too late. They will do it again, it will get worse, and you may be murdered.”
Blake’s psychological trauma being exposed to such horrific violence against his mother – at the hands of his own father – was significant. He for a long time he would reenact what happened that day with
complete strangers and kids at the park. Brieanna remembers one visit with Santa Clause, Blake had told Santa what had happened to his mom. That’s what he was telling Santa – not about what he wanted for Christmas like other kids. He would cry all the time – he was confused – he slept with a giant “crucifix” until he was around 12 years old. At night, Blake would put all of his stuffed animals in a circle around him and said they were his protection. He had nightmares every single night. He was afraid of everything. “He was afraid of sharks (who isn’t?), water, heights, fire, driving. Everything – he feared everything.” Blake was in therapy for a very long time. His therapist, who he got very close to, moved away so after that, he kind of “shut down,” and he didn’t want to talk to anybody else.
He was very confused when he was little. He would tell Brieanna, “Dada sorry – dada sorry – dada does love us – but dada monster.” He would tell her, “Don’t worry momma – I save you,” and he would sleep with his lightsaber to save her – that and his crucifix. And, they would pray together every night.
Brieanna recently found a journal of Blake’s, back from when her was small and he could barely write. He would thank Jesus for his mommy a lot and he had written, “Mommy, if you read this someday, I just want you to know you just told me a story and said your prayers with me and I love you so much.”
One day, Blake had told Brieanna,
“Mom, you know I saved you that day – I made a deal – I gave away my heart so that you could live.” Brieanna told him, “Blake, you are my hero.”
Brieanna felt that in his mind he didn’t have a heart anymore – that it was gone. She promised him they would get his heart back.
To this day, Blake doesn’t even want to talk about David, and he doesn’t recognize that he is his father. “He hates him and wants nothing to do with him.” Brieanna has been told by therapist’s that the Domestic Violence Blake was witnessing – especially what he witnessed that day – happened at a crucial point in his development. “Probably the worst age for this to happen in his child development,” and “This has affected him for a very long time. His dad is dead to him.”
Blake and David had been extremely close and David had a special bond with Blake when he was younger. Blake had missed David desperately after that day – despite what he was exposed to, he had still loved his father tremendously and was so confused. “It just broke my heart – I grew up with two dads – they got none.”
Chase, who was an infant when that day happened, has no memory of his dad. But, he has always been the man of the house and compensated for their not being one. He’s very adult like and has always been that way. He is in ROTC and wants to go in the military.
Brieanna’s dad died in 2007, and he was her best friend. She felt a big part of her had died with him. “I lost my daddy, but I still have my father (her step-dad), who is the most amazing man – he is like Jesus nowadays – that’s how I feel about him. He has been a fill in – he has been their dad – he is so wonderful and I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
One night, just about 8 years after the trial, her youngest son Chase screamed, “Mom, there’s someone in the backyard looking in at me through the sliding glass door.” Chase had said the person was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and he didn’t know who it was. She called 911 – and was thinking to herself how odd it was that that someone would be just standing in her backyard. She wasn’t dating anyone – there was no reason someone should be there – why would someone be in their backyard – strange right? Then, she had a sick feeling – a feeling that she had better check – just in case – just to be sure. She didn’t think it could be David – he was still in jail. Or so she thought. David had been released from prison without her being notified. He had served just a little over 8 years in prison.
Now, she knew it was him. He had found her. But he got away.
After learning David was out, “I got scared at every little noise,” Brianna said. Even when David was in prison Brieanna had felt anxious, nervous, and was going through, “Many many different stages and emotions.” For a long time, Brieanna had thought of going underground, changing their names, and disappearing forever. She was terrified – even while he was in prison. Not so much that David could get to her, but she had thoughts that maybe his friends or family members would get to her or try to kidnap the boys. She wouldn’t allow the boys to play outside, ride their bikes, and she said, “It was bad.”
Shortly after Chase saw David in the backyard she started getting mail in her mailbox with no postage on it. He had been hand delivering things to her. And then couple weeks or so after that, she caught him following her, and she called 911. This time, Law Enforcement found him and he was re-arrested for violating the protection orders.
She has moved 3 times since David was released from prison in 2012. She thinks he knows where she lives now but she is tired of being afraid and said, “I’m fighting back – I’m using my voice.”
Today, David is off parole. He’s what we call “off paper” and so no one is monitoring him at all. There was not a lifetime protection order granted so Brieanna must file for a new one every time it expires.
Due to the extensive injuries Brieanna had suffered during the violent attack she lives in constant physical pain every day. Doctors have prescribed her pain medication but she doesn’t take it. She said she doesn’t like the way it makes her feel so she has learned to live with her pain. “It’s part of my life now – it’s what I know – I don’t ever remember life without pain.”
On days she out does herself, she becomes “partially paralyzed” and her leg will give out on her and she will trip or fall. As well, Brieanna needs major back surgery due to the broken vertebrae and nerve damage. Brieanna’s been told by doctors that if she falls the wrong way she will be paralyzed from the neck down. “But the surgery is so intricate it’s scary. And, there is a 50% chance I may come out of surgery worse. I’m really afraid of that.”
Brieanna has had to learn to rebuild her confidence, to re-find herself again, and it was through therapy that Brieanna discovered a hidden talent she never knew she had – she is an amazing artist. Brieanna now paints murals on buildings, works with children, and makes life-size props for theater events and private parties.
Brieanna says she was never depressed, “I never allowed that to happen – that’s not me.” “I’m extremely positive – to the point it’s probably annoying sometimes.” She laughs. She firmly believes God will not give you more than you can handle.
“I feel like God complimented me that day – because he knew that I was so strong that I was going to do something with this – and I felt like that was something on my shoulders – that this was something that now I had a big duty – I had a big calling I had to respond to. I’ve always known that actually since I was a small child – before this happened to me – and I used to talk to my parents about it and we never understood it – but I
knew I was meant for something on a bigger level that will affect a lot of people.”
Brieanna had such severe nightmares that she had to sleep with her parents for about 6 months after that day. Her and all the boys would sleep together in her parent’s bed – with her parents. To this day, the nightmares still remain – that is the one thing that has not gone away. When she is awake, she feels strong, resilient, and she is not afraid. “But when I sleep I’m vulnerable – it does something – and I still suffer extreme nightmares.”
“Sleep is scary for me. He’s in my dreams in a different way almost every night and I dream extremely explicit – I dream so intensely that my dreams affect me well into the next day.”
Her dreams are always different. She always goes back in time when her boys were small. In some of her dreams, David is not trying to kill her, but he is trying to be back in their lives. And, Brieanna felt “stuck” in that time period.
For that reason, Brieanna contacted the Dr. Phil show. She needed closure. “I’ve got to move forward. I’ve got to move past this so I can go on with my life.” Brieanna sent in an audio clip to the Dr. Phil show and within no time the staff had contacted her to be on the show.
Unfortunately, no matter how hard they tried, no matter what they offered, David would not agree to appear on the show.
Blake had really wanted to be part of the Dr. Phil show too. He needed to confront David in a safe place, and gain closure as well. In his younger teenage years, Blake was suicidal. “Now he’s 16 and he’s doing fantastic. He has a 4.0 GPA, he is intelligent, he is the most amazing wonderful boy you could ever ever imagine. He really wanted to confront his dad so it really devastated him that it didn’t get to happen.”
Brieanna knows now that God has different plans for her. She doesn’t need David for closure. This is her closure. “Me helping other people and saving lives is more closure than I could have ever anticipated.”
The boys are watching Brieanna prosper, grow, and heal.
“But, it’s been a long journey.”
Brieanna offers words of encouragement and wisdom to all the other young girls and women out there who are in an abusive relationship.
Close your eyes and remember who you were before you met this person. Remember life before they were a part of it. Were you able to live? Could you live without them? Of course!
Remember and find – no matter how small it is – that little bit that’s left in you and remember that life you had when you were happy, and seek to be brave.
There is something inside of all of us – it’s a spark – and it only takes a spark to create a fire – just one spark.
As hard as it may be, you need to realize that your life is very much in danger. More people die from their spouse from Domestic Violence than a combination of all the wars we’ve had, car accidents, cancer – this is a cycle – this is a repeated cycle of abuse – it is a pattern and 99% of the time, which means all of the time, they are going to do it again and it’s going to get worse.
You were born to shine – you were born to live – you were born to be free and happy. And, if anybody that you allow into your life that does not enhance your life – that takes from your life – should not be there. It’s not worth it.
The fact that I lived is crazy to me but many are not that lucky. I recently drove past a crime scene where I saw a sheet over a body and I learned later that she was a young girl who had just been shot to death by her ex.
There is happiness in your future and you deserve it. You need to find it and the only way you are going to find it is by eliminating that person. There is help. There are resources. There are people who care.
No matter what He says – no matter what threats – no matter what – nothing is worse than continuing to live in fear and then losing your life over somebody who does this to you.
Why should we protect somebody who doesn’t protect us? They don’t protect us.
Your life is special. When you were born – being born you are luckier than the odds of winning the lottery – so your very life here and being here in the first place is a bit like winning the lottery – even more so.
Your life has purpose and meaning and you need to find it.
We were all born to shine. We were born to be everything that we want. I still dream like I’m a little girl. I still believe in the fairy tale. I haven’t given that up. And, the difference between making it happen or not is action.
So, take your dreams and put them into action – that is the best advice I could give to anybody. Put your dreams into action – don’t wait for anybody or wait for the perfect time – there is never going to be the
perfect time – don’t think you are not good enough – everybody is capable. Everybody that has done anything remarkable started somewhere and many of them started with hard times and trials.