WATERVILLE — Three men were arrested on felony domestic violence-related charges over the weekend, highlighting a cycle of repeat offenders terrorizing or harming victims, police said.
The separate cases caught the attention of Police Chief Joseph Massey, who said reports of domestic violence in Waterville appear to be increasing because of awareness and more available resources to help and support victims.
“I think there are just more victims willing to come forward and make complaints because of resources and support systems and police response,” Massey said.
Julia Colpitts, executive director of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, noted that in each of the three cases described by Massey, a bystander, friend or neighbor intervened to help the woman. Public awareness efforts, law enforcement involvement and advocacy has prompted victims to feel empowered to seek for help, according to Colpitts, and the coalition can help victims develop safety plans they’re comfortable with.
“More and more victims are calling in order to get help ahead of time so they know how to plan for their safety and their children’s safety,” she said. “We encourage victims to call.”
The first of the three cases was reported to police around 3 a.m. Friday by a woman who said her on-and-off boyfriend, Clint Willoughby, had assaulted her, Massey said. She had filed protection from abuse orders against Willoughby in the past, and she told police that this time he had pushed his way through her door and they argued.
“At one point, he picked up a small chair and hit her on the head with it, causing an injury to her head and facial area and I believe, her shoulder,” Massey said. “Some of those injuries caused bleeding.”
She escaped to a neighbor’s home, called police, and later got medical treatment and was connected with services for victims of domestic violence, Massey said.
Police searched for Willoughby through the night and at 6:45 a.m. Saturday, he showed up at the police station, according to Massey.
Willoughby told police that he and the woman had argued and she assaulted him, but police arrested him for domestic violence assault, a class C felony, because he had a prior domestic violence assault conviction against the same woman. He also was charged Saturday with aggravated criminal trespass because he had already been warned not to go to her residence, Massey said.
Willoughby, 25, of China Road, Winslow, was taken to Kennebec County jail in Augusta and is scheduled to appear in Kennebec County Superior Court May 13.
The second domestic violence-related arrest came Sunday.
Just before midnight Saturday, police responded to The Big Apple on Elm Street, where a woman had asked an employee to call police. She was crying and said her husband tried to kill her, Massey said.
“Her 1-year-old daughter was with her at the time,” Massey said. “She said that she had had an argument with her husband and the argument was over alcohol — he wanted her to go out and get alcohol and she didn’t want to. He was insistent. She consented and wanted to take her daughter with her. He didn’t want her to. He tried to grab and pull the daughter away. She held onto the daughter.”
He said the victim reported her husband eventually grabbed her by the throat with both hands and squeezed until she had trouble breathing.
“A neighbor heard the commotion and intervened and at that point, the husband let go of the victim and she took off and ran to The Big Apple.”
Police went to their apartment at 21 Elm St., and found her husband, Ryan Smith, 39. Smith denied the assault, saying only words were exchanged, but police charged with aggravated assault based on the woman’s neck injuries, Massey said.
Smith was taken to the police department, where officers learned he was on probation and contacted a probation officer. Another probation hold was placed on him, according to Massey. A court date for Smith was not immediately available.
The third arrest occurred Sunday night when a woman reported her boyfriend, Timothy Nowlin, had threatened her Saturday in a phone conversation, according to Massey.
“He was drunk and upset with her and he had threatened to kill her and her daughter,” Massey said.
He said she waited until Sunday to call police, after she had spoken with a friend and thought about the situation and became concerned he would follow through on his threats.
“She was able to show us texts she received from him, threatening in nature,” Massey said.
Police went to see Nowlin, 31, at his home at 13 Hathaway St., but he refused to answer the door initially, Massey said. Police ultimately arrested Nowlin and charged him with domestic violence terrorizing, a class C felony.
“They also discovered Nowlin was on probation because he had been found guilty of domestic violence terrorizing on Aug. 6, 2013, against the same victim,” Massey said. “He was intoxicated also, so he was held on a probation hold.”
Like Willoughby, Nowlin is scheduled to appear in Kennebec County Superior Court May 13.
More than 13,000 people called the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence last year for safety plan consultations, according to Colpitts. In addition, more than 30,000 people called the domestic violence help line — 1-866-834-4357 — a call volume that has increased the last four years.
According to Maine Department of Public Safety statistics, 5,360 domestic violence assaults were reported in 2011 and 5,593 were reported in 2012. In Kennebec County, 662 were reported in 2011 and 694, in 2012. In Somerset County, 223 were reported in 2011 and 340 in 2012. In Franklin County, 144 were reported in 2011 and 173 in 2012.