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Trial begins in domestic violence case from March

Sep 22, 2015 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

A dozen injuries would be evidence that a Riverton man beat, battered and strangled his ex-girlfriend, a prosecutor said during opening statements in a trial Monday in Lander District Court.

The injuries include a black eye, a cut lip, an injured throat, a cut on the leg and hair loss.

The defendant's lawyer, however, said there was another explanation: The woman did it to herself.

The trial is scheduled to last five days.

Investigators said Justin Tanner King argued with his ex-girlfriend Patricia Barrett on March 14 at her Riverton home, assaulted her and then forced her into a car and drove to Lander, continuing to beat her along the way.

Prosecutors charged King with three felonies -- felonious restraint, strangulation of a household member, and aggravated assault and battery -- and two misdemeanors -- domestic

battery and theft.

Prosecution's story

Deputy Fremont County attorney Dan Stebner said he and his colleague Sara Robinson would present witnesses and physical evidence to make their case. In addition to evidence of Barrett's injuries, they would also bring a distinctive, curved knife to court. Barrett would say King used the blade to cut her in her home. Investigators would testify they found it on Barrett's couch in the early morning of March 14, and they would say King had an empty sheath fitting the knife in his shoe when he was arrested.

Witnesses also would corroborate Barrett's story, Stebner said. The woman said she got away from King when he went into his friends' house in Lander and left her in the car. She found a young couple who drove her back to Riverton while she called 911, worried King would return to her home and hurt her two young daughters.

"On the strength of that evidence, Ms. Robinson and I are going to ask you to find the defendant guilty," Stebner said.

Defendant's story

King's lawyer, Gordon Ellis, said the prosecution's story was all wrong. Barrett was mad at King, not the other way around, he said. The two dated off and on for several years, but on March 14, King told Barrett he was going back to a different ex-girlfriend, one who lived in Gillette.

King did drive to Lander, but Barrett asked to go with him, Ellis said. When they got to the county seat, both went into King's friends' house, and they would testify Barrett was unharmed when they got there.

Barrett left, still unharmed and of her accord, and King did not see her again. He went to look for her half an hour later but did not find her and decided to travel to Gillette.

The first King heard of the charges was when he was arrested in Gillette later on March 14, Ellis said.

Ellis also had an answer for the physical evidence of Barrett's injuries. Witnesses also would testify that Barrett had a history of harming herself, the lawyer said.

"It's going to be our position that her injuries came after she left the (friends') and ... it's entirely possible Miss (Patricia) Barrett gave the injuries to Patricia Barrett," Ellis said.

Both sides intended to present witnesses and other evidence over the next few days. Court schedules expected the trial to last all week, but it could end sooner or take longer.

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