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Thursday, January 29, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 31.0° F  Overcast
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Deadly attraction
For 20 years, Carrie Hindes stayed with a man who abused her. Now he's charged with trying to take her life.
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Carrie Hindes after the assault: A few more millimeters, and she could have died.
Carrie Hindes after the assault: A few more millimeters, and she could have died.

Carrie Hindes was hiding.

For days prior to the attack, she had been camped out with a friend, Ken Klawitter, at the Expo Inn on Madison's south side. Their room was only a few doors down from Jonathan's, but Carrie felt safe. Although Jonathan still paid his rent, he had not been living at the motel for weeks.

'Don't go anywhere alone,' her friend Kati Stone warned her. 'Don't leave Ken's room.' Kati was the Expo's manager and says now, 'I knew Jon was coming after her. I was scared for her life.'

Kati's fears intensified a couple of days before the attack, when Jonathan showed up in the motel parking lot. Kati says she watched through the office window as Jonathan, carrying a hammer, approached Ken's truck. He spoke to Carrie through the open passenger window, then suddenly raised the hammer, as if to strike. Ken hit the gas and peeled out of the parking lot. Later, Carrie called Madison Police Officer Curt Fields to report the incident.

On the morning of May 17, 2006, Ken decided he needed to go back to work. He'd missed too many hours at his construction job staying home to guard Carrie. On his way out, he asked Kati to keep an eye on her.

According to Carrie, this is what happened next:

After Ken left, she went to the motel's office to use the copier. She chatted with Kati for a few minutes, then went back to her room. A moment later, someone knocked.

Thinking it was Kati, Carrie opened the door. Jonathan charged in. He grabbed her, hugged her, then started crying. 'You're telling me this is it?' he asked her.

They had been together for 20 years. They'd never married, but had three kids. Carrie had been trying to leave him for years.

'Yes,' she told him. 'You need help.'

She took a few steps into the room, and when she turned around, Jonathan slammed the heel of his hand into her nose. It broke instantly. Blood poured down her face as Jonathan started choking her. They struggled, and Carrie fell to the floor, with Jonathan landing on top of her.

In the rush of violence that followed, Jonathan stomped her wrist with his cowboy boots, cracked her ribs and kicked her side.

As Carrie lay curled in a fetal position on the floor, she looked up at a picture of Jesus on the wall. She envisioned her kids and Ken standing over her, urging her to live. That gave her the strength to shove her foot into Jonathan's groin and push him away. She remembered a class she had taken once about surviving abuse. She was supposed to do anything, say anything, to stop the attack and buy herself time.

'If you love your children at all, please let them have their mother,' she begged Jonathan. 'If you really love me, I'll come back. We'll do whatever it takes.'

Once she said that, Carrie says, Jonathan calmed down. He got up and took a beer out of the fridge. As he did, Carrie felt a burning pain in her neck. She reached up and pulled a knife blade out of her throat.

She asked Jonathan to get her a towel. He did, then sat down on the bed and said, 'Let's talk about this.'

But Carrie told him she couldn't talk about their relationship right now. 'Please get me to the hospital,' she croaked. 'I'm bleeding to death.'

Finally, Jonathan agreed. Still carrying his beer, he walked out into the hall with her. As they passed the office door, Carrie ran inside. She fell into Kati's arms.

'Oh my God, oh my God!' Kati cried, according to the 911 tape that was played at the trial. 'Please, Jon! Please, please Jon! Please just stay away!'

Another employee in the office tackled Jon and held him down until the police arrived.

Jonathan Love was charged with first-degree attempted homicide for attacking Carrie Hindes. His first trial, in November, ended in a hung jury. He is being retried next month. His defense attorney, Jon Helland, argues that Carrie is a drug addict, with multiple convictions, and calls her story 'a little suspect.'

But those who know Carrie and Jon say their relationship had long been violent. Officer Fields has known the couple for the last 10 years. When he arrived at the Expo Inn that morning to find Carrie with a bloody towel at her neck and Jonathan being restrained, he was not surprised.

'You've got two people in a very violent domestic situation,' he says. 'This is as crappy as it gets.'

A hidden problem

The relationship between Carrie and Jonathan is a textbook case of domestic violence. It began with a 'honeymoon' stage, progressed to irrational jealousy and obsession, then to physical beatings and a final act of rage.

By Carrie's account, Jonathan beat her countless times over the years. She says he fractured her hands, dislocated her shoulder, pushed her into walls, tried to smother her with a mattress. She got bruises, black eyes and whiplash. She points to a scar on her shoulder, saying it was caused by broken glass from the time Jonathan tried to shove her out of a second-story window.

What made it all the more horrifying was Carrie's difficulty in escaping her situation. By the end of her 20-year relationship with Jonathan, she had lost all three of her children to foster care, had been addicted to cocaine (she says she used drugs to deal with the beatings) and believed Jon when he told her that she was ugly and no one but him would ever love her.

'Domestic violence is a social-justice issue,' says Shannon Barry, executive director of Domestic Abuse Intervention Services, which runs Dane County's only shelter for victims of abuse. 'It's supported by institutional sexism, racism, classism. It's really a hidden problem.'

But it's a problem officials must address in their efforts against poverty, drug abuse and homelessness in Madison. Part of the reason Carrie stayed with Jonathan, she said, is because 'with him, at least I had shelter.'

Carrie says she once tried to go to the domestic violence shelter, but was turned away because it was full. And she was too afraid to go to homeless shelters, where she'd heard people would steal your stuff. 'It would be like going from one frying pan to the other,' she says. Besides, anywhere she went, Jonathan would eventually find her. 'I tried many times to leave,' she says.

Barry says asking why Carrie didn't just leave shows that attitudes toward domestic violence have not changed much over the years. 'It behooves us as a society to switch the question,' she says. Instead of asking why women stay, we should ask, 'Why do abusers do this? It's putting the responsibility where it belongs.'

Carrie says she finally decided to leave Jonathan for good last year, in part because she no longer had her children to worry about. And, in part, because she'd met Ken, who repeatedly told her she could stay with him if she needed sanctuary from Jonathan.

Victims of domestic violence, notes Barry, are more at risk when they try to leave than at any other time. 'When abusers start feeling like they're losing control, they'll turn to more violence as a means to regain control.'

At Jonathan Love's trial last November, Dr. Lee Faucher, director of trauma at UW Hospital and Clinics, testified that if the wound in Carrie's neck had been a few millimeters over, it would have severed her carotid artery. 'Those injuries are almost always fatal,' he said.

Carrie spent a week in the hospital recovering from the attack. She's had multiple surgeries to repair the damage. She now uses a cane ' a consequence, she says, of years of abuse.

How the relationship ended is so different from how it began that Carrie can hardly understand it. Of Jonathan, she says, 'I'm not going to say he's a monster. He got lost. The devil came. The drugs and alcohol took over. I saw what was inside of Jon. He had a heart of gold. He meant well, but he got lost.'

'Meant to be together'

Carrie met Jonathan in California in 1986, when she was 21 and he was a couple years older. He'd come to visit her roommate, having just broken up with his girlfriend. He wanted to get drunk. According to Carrie, he ranted, 'All girls are bitches and cunts!'

Carrie didn't like him, but she felt sorry for him. He was sick with a fever that night, so she gave him some aspirin and ordered him to bed. He got angry, yelling, 'Who the hell are you?'

But five days later, he returned to apologize. They began dating. Jonathan was a musician, though he mostly worked as a mechanic. It seemed to Carrie like he could do anything. She got 'butterflies' just thinking about him. 'I was so much in love with him,' she says. 'We knew we were meant to be together.'

Though they never married, they did move in together. For a while, everything was great. Barry says this is not uncommon: 'So often they do start out as loving relationships. Love is a big piece of what keeps a woman there.'

According to Carrie, things changed after the birth of their first child, a daughter. Jonathan became more possessive and controlling. He got angry if another man said hello to her or if the house was dirty. She would run around, cleaning up, putting away the laundry, trying to anticipate what might set him off.

I must be doing something wrong for him to get so angry with me, she'd think.

Carrie says Jonathan hit her for the first time when she was five months pregnant with their second child. After her son was born, she packed up the kids and left. A friend gave her some money to move back to Wisconsin, where she'd grown up.

Jonathan followed. The couple ended up living together again, near Allied Drive. Carrie admits she started visiting the neighborhood's drug dealers soon after. 'It was just so much,' she says. 'I had no one to turn to, no family, no friends.'

Barry says using drugs is 'pretty typical with trauma survivors.' And studies have found that many victims of domestic violence turn to drugs or alcohol to 'numb' the pain of the situation.

Carrie's criminal record began to grow; she was convicted of cocaine possession and shoplifting. By 2000, her two oldest children had been put in foster care, but she'd given birth to a third child, another son. Carrie says she shoplifted to support him, and court records show that she did once take a box of baby cereal and toiletries, including deodorant and shampoo. But she was also stealing lingerie and perfume. She told police it was because she wanted to look nice for her husband.

Officer Fields suspects Carrie was shoplifting to support her drug habit. But he doesn't doubt that she was also taking things to survive. Jonathan was not working much. 'They were really struggling,' he says.

When the couple lived in Allied Drive (they've moved often over the years), Fields would stop by to check on the kids. As far as he knew, they were never abused. And he believes Carrie truly loved her children. 'I've seen some cold-hearted women,' he says. 'She definitely wasn't one of those.'

By 2004, Jonathan and Carrie's third child was also put in foster care. Carrie says losing their youngest son infuriated Jonathan. He beat her and destroyed their rented house on the east side, driving a screwdriver into the doors and smashing windows, the TV and microwave. Police found a crowbar near the stove, which was full of dents.

Jonathan was convicted of battery and property damage, and given probation.

By the time the couple moved to the Expo Inn in 2005, Carrie says Jonathan was 'paranoid.' He refused to let her out of his sight, even making her go to the bathroom with the door open.

'In the end, I could never do anything right,' says Carrie. 'In his eyes, I was the bad person.'

'Jon says he didn't do it'

When Jonathan Love's defense attorney, Jon Helland, hears that Isthmus is doing a story about Carrie Hindes, he laughs. Asked why, he replies, 'She has a long record. She has a history of drugs, of alcohol abuse. A history of asking people for money.'

As a public defender (he also represents Eric Hainstock, the 15-year-old charged with fatally shooting his high school principal in Cazenovia last year), Helland says he's automatically suspicious of the claims people make. And he doesn't buy Carrie's story.

'I don't find her credible,' he says. 'She's accused people of a lot. You've got to be very careful if you want to write about this.'

Helland says he has no idea what happened on May 17. 'She could be telling the truth,' he says. 'Then again, maybe she isn't.' He initially refuses to tell Jonathan's side of the story, saying, 'I'm not going to try this case in Isthmus. That's silly. It's not a popularity contest.' Then he adds, 'Jon says he didn't do it.'

According to the statement Jonathan gave his probation agent after the attack, when Carrie opened the door for him at the Expo Inn, he greeted her with a hug. He says Carrie then started arguing with him 'and we started wrestling. She grabbed my hand. I tried to pull back, but at the same time, I slammed my hand on her face, trying to get away from her.'

He said Carrie fell down after he pushed her. Then they both spotted a knife lying nearby. Carrie reached for it and Jonathan tried to stop her by clutching her tightly. When he saw the knife in her neck, he told Carrie they had to go to the hospital immediately. They walked to the office, and he asked Kati to call for help.

'If I hadn't gotten her to an ambulance,' he told his probation agent, 'she would have died.'

Helland notes that the day before Carrie ended up with a knife in her neck, a jury found her guilty of possessing cocaine. (She was sentenced to electronic monitoring, which ended in November.) The drugs had been found in her gloves during a traffic stop in 2004. She claimed the coke was Jonathan's and, according to Helland, wanted him to back her up. He didn't. Helland calls the fact that the alleged attack happened the next day 'a curious coincidence.'

Besides, Helland continues, if Carrie knew Jonathan was looking for her, why did she open the motel room door when someone knocked? If she was hiding, why had she called Jonathan at his workplace multiple times the day before, and then again on the morning of the attack? During the attack, the knife apparently broke in half; only part of the blade went into Carrie's neck. Why was the other half found ' with no blood on it ' in a box halfway across the room? If Carrie was lying on her left side during the beating, then how had she been stabbed on the left side of her neck?

'There are a lot of things that don't make sense,' says Helland.

During the trial in November, Helland suggested that Carrie invited Jonathan to the motel room, slapped him and knocked his glasses off, then stabbed herself accidentally by falling on the knife, which was lying on the floor. The trial ended in a hung jury, 10-2 in favor of conviction.

'They had problems with her credibility,' says Helland. 'Jon is no saint, but Carrie has 11 convictions. That's a lot.'

Carrie says most of her problems were because of Jonathan's abuse. She denies ever having problems with alcohol, and says she's conquered her drug addiction. And since she's been free of Jonathan, she's had no trouble with the law. But she understands that people might dismiss her story.

'When you get a bad record, it stays with you for the rest of your life,' she says, adding that people probably think: 'She's got a drug history, she's living in a hotel, she's a nobody.'

Blaming herself

Months after the attack, Carrie is walking a visitor through the Expo Inn's parking lot. On a bench outside the motel office a woman is sitting alone, all bundled up, talking to herself. She mutters something indistinct and angry as Carrie passes. Carrie sighs and shrugs: 'That woman calls me names every time she sees me.'

Carrie and Ken are still living at the Expo, in the same room where Carrie was attacked. The blood was cleaned from the carpet and Ken himself washed the blood spatters from the walls. But being in the room gives Carrie nightmares.

The couple can't afford to move ' Carrie gets only $600 a month in Social Security for her disability. Ken works full-time in the summer doing construction, but is laid off every winter. This year he had to dip into his retirement fund to pay the rent.

'If I hadn't, we would be homeless,' he says.

Carrie has a stack of unpaid medical bills, totaling nearly $50,000. She recently qualified for Medicaid, but the state-run program doesn't cover expenses more than three months old.

Wisconsin's Crime Victim Compensation Program reimburses victims up to $40,000, to help defray medical costs and other bills. Carrie applied, but her application was denied. The state refuses to explain, saying they sent Carrie a letter about the denial. Carrie says she never got anything in writing. She believes she was denied because she owes Dane County back child support from when her children were in foster care.

She thinks of her children daily and believes all three have now been adopted. She's decided that's for the best. 'It's the worst sacrifice in my life,' she says. 'I want them to be healthy, to have a normal childhood.'

Carrie says Jonathan ripped up most of her photos of the kids. She has only a few left, and no baby pictures at all of her oldest son. She cries when she looks at the photos and gestures to her cane and the scar on her neck. 'I don't even know if they know what their father did.'

Barry says many victims of domestic abuse blame themselves for what happened. 'A lot of social messages contribute to that,' she says. 'That women need to stick it out, that we're responsible for nurturing, for healing the family.'

Carrie absolutely believes it's her fault. 'I always gave him a second chance,' she says, hoping he'd 'realize he's got a woman who loves him and three beautiful children. I feel bad because instead of making him take responsibility, I made him the way he was.' She hopes that telling her story will help other victims of domestic violence. 'There is hope.'

Carrie has moved on. She's now dating Ken.

'We have a good relationship,' she says. 'He never puts his hands on me.'

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