Melvin Randall, a 49-year-old Delta County resident, was sentenced to eight years in prison for an act of domestic violence that left his victim in a medically-induced coma.
A sentencing hearing was conducted in Judge Steven Schultz's courtroom Tuesday, Dec. 6.
Randall was originally charged with assault in the second degree, a class 4 felony, and stalking. The stalking charge was dismissed as a result of a plea agreement.
Karen Lorenz, a special deputy district attorney from Boulder County, told the judge Randall and the victim had a 14-year relationship that was characterized by escalating levels of violence and other forms of abusive, controlling behavior.
The couple formerly lived in Virginia. To escape the abusive relationship, the victim relocated to Colorado in 2011 with the help of a friend.
Lorenz told the judge Randall followed her to Delta County and moved into a house across the street, where he could monitor her comings and goings. Based upon Randall's continuing abuse and controlling behavior, the victim was granted a permanent restraining order in September 2012. But contact did not cease. According to court documents, the defendant continued to stalk the victim and, in September 2014, brutally beat her with his fists, punching her in the chest and arms repeatedly. The victim did not report the incident to the police, or even immediately seek medical treatment because of her fear of Randall.
A few days later, friends noticed the victim was in terrible physical condition and rushed her to Delta County Memorial Hospital. Due to the severity of the beating, the victim suffered organ failure and was placed in a medically-induced coma. She was later transported to a larger hospital for intensive care.
She told the judge she still has not fully regained her strength. She often loses her train of thought and has to search for the right word. She also spoke about the psychological damage inflicted on her two sons, particularly when Randall attempted to blame the beating on one of the boys.
Because of the serious nature of this case, district attorney Dan Hotsenpiller requested assistance from the District Attorney's Office of the Twentieth Judicial District. Lorenz, a seasoned trial prosecutor with experience in domestic violence cases, was designated as a special deputy for the Seventh Judicial District.
The defendant was represented by public defender Daniel Lavrisha, who said the victim not only invited Randall to come to Colorado, she paid his expenses.
He said Randall is not a risk to the community and cited the many letters submitted to the court by individuals who know him as a kind and generous person. His fiancée addressed the court, saying she has never witnessed any aggressive behavior toward her, her child or the young baby they had together.
Lavrisha referred to the defendant's lack of criminal history. "If he was as abusive and as dangerous as portrayed, there would be more than two [criminal] cases listed," he said.
Lorenz brought up one of the cases that occurred in Virginia, where Randall got into the victim's trailer by breaking into the floor of the bathroom and entering from below. She asked the judge to levy a prison sentence of at least 10 years; the victim asked for the maximum time allowable under law.
Lavrisha said probation or a community-based sentence would be appropriate. He called the sentence requested by the district attorney's office "grossly disproportionate" to two other assault cases recently adjudicated in the same courtroom.
Judge Schultz said his decision was not based on the defendant's criminal history or on his integration into the community, but only on the charge of second degree assault. Randall broke into the victim's home and violently assaulted her, and for that offense a sentence of eight years is appropriate, he said.
In a press release issued after sentencing, Hotsenpiller said the case proved challenging for victim services, who located safe housing for the victim and her two children, ages 15 and 16, out of state.
The DA's victim services staff, led by Aimee English, repeatedly went the extra mile for the last two years while this case has been pending, Hotsenpiller said. English maintained contact with the victim and made sure the entire prosecution team continued to push this case forward and achieve justice for the victim and her children.
"I am extremely proud of the work by Aimee English and her victim services staff, and recognize their dedication and service," Hotsenpiller said.
"Domestic violence is all too common in our communities. Often, it is easy to dismiss the concern of domestic violence because most of the cases involve minor or no injuries. But domestic violence does lasting damage to victims and families, and can result in very serious injuries or even death, as we see in this case. The district attorney's office will continue to work with our law enforcement and community partners to hold domestic violence offenders accountable and to seek safety and protection for victims and children."
A collaborative effort between the Delta County Sheriff's Office and municipal law enforcement agencies throughout Delta County has resulted in a proposal for a 1 percent sales tax increase to fund public safety. A PowerPoint presentation titled "Back the Badge" is starting to make the rounds at city/town council meetings, service club luncheons and other events.