Jury returns mixed verdict in domestic violence case
By Ruth Ann Krause Post-Tribune correspondent April 12, 2013 10:36PM
Updated: May 14, 2013 6:13AM
A Lake Superior Court jury deliberated about three hours Friday before convicting a Gary man of battery in an assault on his former girlfriend.
The jury of 10 women and two men acquitted Christopher Ryan Mendoza, 22, of the Miller section, of six other felony charges that include attempted murder, attempted rape, criminal confinement and strangulation.
Judge Salvador Vasquez scheduled a May 29 sentencing hearing. Mendoza, who remains free on bond, faces a maximum eight-year sentence.
In closing arguments, deputy prosecutors Christine Parry and Catherine Breitweiser-Hurst argued that Mendoza was obsessed with the victim and became enraged with his girlfriend of about three years when he discovered that she had cheated on him again. They noted that Mendoza said he beat the woman when his mother took him to a mental health center. Early in the couple’s relationship, Parry said, Mendoza tattooed the woman’s name on his penis, but she refused to get a tattoo with his name on her inner thigh.
Defense attorney Larry Rogers blasted the police investigation and attacked the credibility of the complaining witness. “They looked at (the woman), took pictures and talked to her and her mom and jumped to the conclusion of attempted murder, attempted rape, criminal confinement in one day,” Roger said. “They talked to (the woman) and what did she do? She lied through her teeth. Who has the guts to just lie to police?”
Until a few months ago, the woman never told then-Gary police Detective Robin Bolde that she’d lied about where Mendoza picked her up and where they went. The 20-year-old woman testified she and Mendoza went to Moods, a bar in Portage, where they consumed several shots and beers with an acquaintance of Mendoza’s and the man’s girlfriend. Afterward, they went to the man’s father’s home in Portage to spend the night. Both Mendoza and the woman were underage at the time.
Mendoza testified that early on March 10, 2011, he checked his girlfriend’s cell phone out of curiosity and discovered a text message that pointed to her infidelity. He told her they needed to talk and they left the man’s home. In the car, Mendoza said the woman slipped off her shoes and pulled her knees to her chest, then began kicking him. Mendoza said he swung his arm three times to block the woman’s kicks and pulled her hair once as he drove her to his mother’s home in the 7900 block of Ash Avenue in Gary.
About six months ago, Rogers filed a notice his client would raise a self-defense claim.
Breitweiser-Hurst displayed side-by-side photographs of the woman’s bruised, swollen face against Mendoza’s booking photo taken a day after the incident. Mendoza’s face didn’t appear to be bruised. The woman also had a broken finger, cuts on her lips, knots on her head, bare patches on her scalp and a bite mark on her shoulder.
Rogers hammered away at the woman’s testimony, asking the jury to consider where the attempted rape occurred. “Did he pull over or try to have sex with her in the back seat when he was driving?” Rogers said. He also challenged evidence that the woman was strangled, noting that there were no visible bruises on her neck and no complaint of a sore throat or hoarseness.
Prosecutors pointed out that the emergency room doctor said strangulation can be difficult to diagnose.