COLUMBIA — At the end of a long day of grueling cross-examination Wednesday, a woman who was beaten and kidnapped by her boyfriend last fall cried quietly as a jury found him guilty after almost three hours of deliberation.
“I feel safe, and I’m glad it won’t happen again,” an emotional Kim Oakley, 51, said after the verdict was read in Boone County Circuit Court.
The 10-woman, two-man jury found John David Jones, 47, guilty of kidnapping and second-degree assault in the Oct. 6, 2007, incident. The charge of felonious restraint was dismissed.
Boone County Assistant Prosecutor Andrea Hayes said she was pleased with the verdict.
“I think it’s a huge win for domestic assault to have such a large case and have a victim come forward,” Hayes said after hugging Oakley.
During testimony lasting an hour and a half, Oakley stated that the assault took place after she returned home to the apartment the two were sharing in north Columbia. She had gone on a day trip to visit her family in McBaine and stopped at the Hideaway, a favorite bar, on her way home. But it was a place that Jones, whom she had been dating for four months, did not want her to go. Upset that he had not been invited to see her family and that his girlfriend had been to a bar she had promised to stay away from, Jones became violent, she testified.
“The argument got heated. He went to the kitchen and grabbed a knife,” Oakley testified, crying and struggling to find words.
“He came around the corner of the couch, pushed me against the wall, grabbed me around the neck, threw me on the floor and started choking me,” Oakley said.
The jury saw pictures of Oakley’s injuries from the assault that followed: her bloody eyes, knotted hair and bruised shoulders.
The knife was later brought up again and again by defense attorneys, Tony Manansala and Jennifer Bukowsky, who sought to discredit Oakley, pointing out that she did not mention a knife in her early interview with Officer Amy Bishop the day after the assault. Bishop confirmed the inconsistency in the victim’s statements. A knife was never recovered by police.
Also in contention was the role a baseball bat played that night. Oakley testified that she picked up a bat in self-defense but dropped it when Jones threw a potted plant at her.
“There was a baseball bat in the corner,” Oakley testified. “I held it up and thought, ‘OK I’m going to fight.’”
The defense called Charles Anderson, a Boone County Corrections officer, to testify that Jones had red marks on his shoulders, possibly from being hit with a bat, on the day of his arrest. But Anderson’s testimony was undermined later when Hayes pointed out Anderson did not record this observation until March and did so only at Jones’ request.
Oakley said that after choking her in the house, Jones told her to get in the car and threatened to take her to St. Louis where his friends would drug and rape her.
“I had to go. I didn’t want to be stabbed. I went into survivor mode,” she said.
In the car, Jones called his sister, Sue Lewis, and told her what had happened. Lewis testified that she talked to both her brother and Oakley on the phone that night, then called Boone County Joint Communications because she was concerned for their safety. Lewis stated she only told police what Oakley had said. But in a recorded 911 call played for the jury, Lewis can be heard saying that her brother said he choked Oakley so hard he almost killed her.
Defense attorney Manansala attempted to show that the events of Oct. 6 were little more than a heated fight between two lovers and “a case about two people who fell in love.” He pointed out inconsistencies between Oakley’s testimony and previous statements she made to police and that she did not try to get away or get help when Jones stopped for cigarettes on their drive.
But Oakley testified that she was terrified: “He told me I better not get out.”
Manansala also pointed to the fact that Oakley visited Jones in jail just a week after the assault.
“I just wanted closure,” Oakley said of the visit.
Jones remained blank-faced throughout Oakley’s testimony and only occasionally shook his head. He did not take the stand in his own defense.
Boone County Circuit Judge Gene Hamilton said Jones could receive 30 years to life for the kidnapping charges alone since he is a prior and persistent offender, and up to 15 years for second-degree domestic assault.
A sentencing hearing had not been set.