A Greenwood man was sentenced Wednesday at the Greenwood County Courthouse in a case prosecutors said had one of the most horrific set of facts in a criminal domestic violence case they had ever seen.
Carl Stroud, who pleaded guilty last November to a charge of assault and battery first degree and possession of a controlled substance, was sentenced to six years in prison, suspended to two years in prison and three years of probation by Judge Donald Hocker following a lengthy sentencing hearing. More than 100 people packed the Greenwood County Courthouse Wednesday morning for the hearing, many in support of Stroud.
Stroud was initially charged with criminal domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature in connection with a Sep. 2012 incident in which prosecutors say he shoved a gun in the victim’s mouth and told her he would kill her. Stroud said he would kill the victim in seven days or seven years. Stroud also told the victim he would eat her daughter, watch her son’s head explode and cut the fat from her thighs while he threatened her with a box cutter. Stroud choked the victim and bit her repeatedly. The victim was able to escape from Stroud’s car while the car was at a red light and run into a Walgreen’s Pharmacy for help.
Stroud appeared before Judge Hocker last November to enter a guilty plea to assault and battery first degree and possession of a controlled substance. Stroud’s initial charge of criminal domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature carried a sentence of one to 10 years in prison. Assault and battery first degree carries a sentence of zero to 10 years in prison. During the plea proceeding, Judge Hocker ordered the S.C. Department of Probation, pardon and Parole Services to conduct a pre-sentencing investigation. The pre-sentencing report, completed by Chadwick Gambrell, SCDPPPS agent in charge for Laurens and Greenwood counties, recommended a sentence of some period of incarceration followed by a five year probationary period.
Elizabeth White handled the case for the state and asked Judge Hocker to sentence Stroud to time in prison. White noted Stroud had been at an inpatient drug addiction facility near Atlanta which she termed a “yuppie country club.” White said the recovery facility, Recovery Outfitters, Inc., took patients to Atlanta Braves games and whitewater rafting as part of the treatment program. White told the court that in her nearly nine years prosecuting criminal domestic violence cases, she has yet to see a case as horrific as Stroud’s. White also noted there were a number of text messages between Stroud and his parents where his parents encouraged Stroud to hide under a car tarp and lock himself in the house.
White noted for the court that South Carolina continues to lead the nation in domestic violence related homicides.
“We have people here who have never met (the victim) until today,” White said. “They are here because we’ve had too many homicides in Greenwood County that are domestic violence related,” White said, “We’ve had too many homicides in this state that are domestic violence related and they are here because we need to send that deterrent message that we’re not going to tolerate this kind of behavior and we don’t care who you are.”
The victim addressed the court and described the anxiety and fear she experiences on a daily basis. The victim told the court that Stroud informed her he was taking her to a family farm in the Ware Shoals area and that it was a good place to hide a body. The victim told the court she experiences great anxiety and fear any time a stranger walks toward her and she fears for the lives of her children on a daily basis. The victim’s mother told the court Stroud’s mother came to her house the day after the incident and offered to pay for anything the victim needed to recover from her injuries. The victim’s mother said the offer was never made again once it became clear her daughter would pursue charges against Stroud.
Stroud’s attorney, Jake Moore of Greenville, told the court there had been an altercation the previous day between Stroud and the victim and the victim left the home to stay with her mother. Moore questioned why the victim came back the following day knowing Stroud was emotionally unstable and battling a drug problem. A representative of Recovery Outfitters, Inc., where Stroud has been a patient for about seven months, addressed the court and said he was offended by White’s characterization of his facility and that recovery needed to be fun in order to be effective. The representative told the court Stroud has been a good patient. A statement from the facility included in the per-sentencing report says the charges against Stroud “appear unbelievable based upon our around the clock observations of Carl’s behavior over the past six months.”
Moore told the court that Stroud had come too far in his recovery to be sent to prison. Moore said he felt it would be a death sentence for Stroud to have to leave the recovery facility to serve time on prison. Stroud’s father and the representative of the recovery facility echoed that sentiment.
After a brief recess, Judge Hocker laid out both the aggravating factors and mitigating factors in the case. Judge Hocker said he took into account the fact that Stroud was in a treatment program, had support of family and friends and there was no evidence of prior criminal domestic violence incidents. Judge Hocker alss noted that the victim was very noticeably suffering emotionally as a result of the incident, the incident occurred over an extended period of time compared to most criminal domestic violence incidents, inconsistency in Stroud’s statements about the incident and Stroud’s text messages to his parents indicating he was fully aware of what he had done, though he claimed to have little or no memory of the incident. Judge Hocker also said he could not get over the fact that a gun and box cutter were used in the incident and threats were made against children.
Alice Hodges, executive director of Meg’s House, said it was good to see the community support the victim since so many victims do not want to prosecute their abusers because they feel they have no support. Hodges also said she felt justice was done.
“It was very emotional being in the courtroom today and hearing the facts of the case,” Hodges said. “We hope that future trials will be similar to this one where perpetrators are held accountable for their actions. We don’t want to rule out individuals getting help, but we’re there to support the victims. That’s part of our mission.”
Eighth Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo said he felt a message was sent to the community that criminal domestic violence will not be tolerated in his circuit.
“I am honored and privileged to have assistant solicitor Elizabeth White, victim advocate Mary Ann Stroup and investigator Windy Chappell fighting for the victim in this case and the citizens of Greenwood County,” Stumbo said. “Their dedicated and excellent work resulted in a conviction that we hope will send a message to domestic abusers in our area that committing these horrific acts on household members is unacceptable and will land you in prison.”