Man pleads not guilty to aggravated domestic assault; held without bail
KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- A Rupert man was held without bail Monday after pleading not guilty in Bennington Superior Court Criminal Division to eight felonies and other charges alleging that he slammed a woman's head into a wall and dragged her by the hair, among other acts, over the span of two days.
Mark T. Johnson Jr., 31, was charged with four counts of first degree aggravated domestic assault, three felony counts of unlawful restraint, kidnapping, misdemeanor interference with access to emergency services, and two misdemeanor charges of domestic assault. He was also charged as a habitual offender, meaning if he is convicted of a new felony, the state could argue for him to serve up to life in prison.
According to an affidavit by Vermont State Police Trooper Lewis Hatch, on Saturday shortly after midnight at the Manchester Police Department he and a Manchester police officer spoke to a woman who came in to report her car and cell phone having been taken. Hatch said the woman was not wearing shoes, which he found strange as temperatures were below freezing. She told Hatch she had been in physical confrontations with Johnson, and had lost her shoes while fleeing a car they had been in. She said her head felt "tingly" and requested medical treatment, which she received. Police said they later learned she had a concussion and possibly a fractured jaw.
According to the woman, on Thursday she was at her home in Rupert with Johnson and they got into an argument. She said Johnson grabbed her by the head and slammed it into a wall, then hit her in the back of the head with a closed fist. She said her head felt tingly and her legs became weak. She told police Johnson hits her on the back of the head because people have noticed bruises elsewhere on her body from past assaults. She told police she did not want Johnson to get into trouble, but said she is afraid he will kill her because he does not know how hard he hits.
The woman told police that on Friday she and Johnson were at the home they share, this time in the company of two friends, a male and a female. She said she and Johnson argued over him accusing her of sleeping with the male friend. She said Johnson hit her in the head with his closed fist and so she told him she was calling police. She said he then pinned her to the ground and took her phone away.
After that, she said, the female friend decided she wanted to go home to the four got into a vehicle and headed toward Manchester. The woman said when her friend, who was driving, slowed the car down, she got out and was dragged back into the car by Johnson, who had grabbed her by the hair causing it to come out in clumps. She said when back in the car, the male friend tried to stick up for her but was punched in the eye by Johnson. She said Johnson held her down in the car and punched her in the back of the head a number of times. When they arrived at the male friend's home, the alleged victim left the car and ran to the police station.
Hatch wrote that the woman had several loose clumps of hair on her head that came out when she touched her head.
When he spoke to the male friend he was told the friend witnessed Johnson grab the woman by the hair at their home and hold her to the ground. He said the male friend corroborated the rest of the woman's story.
Hatch said he spoke to Johnson and the female friend, both of whom said nothing had happened that night and that it was the woman who had been driving to Manchester until she stopped the car and ran away into the woods. Johnson told police that the woman and the male friend had been in an argument and that she stopped the car and ran off when he refused to leave the vehicle. Johnson said he had not hit anyone. According to Hatch, Johnson had cuts on his hands, a scratch on his neck, and blood on his pants, which Johnson said had been done to him that evening although he could not recall by who. He said he had been trying to keep the peace between the other three, who were fighting.
Hatch said Johnson took an alcohol breath test which showed his blood-alcohol content to be .115 percent.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr
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