David Schwindt, 77, took the stand feebly, his palsied hand trembling as he raised it to be sworn in. The old man’s hearing was poor so the bailiff fitted a set of earphones over his head before Deputy DA Elizabeth Norman could begin her direct examination.
When he was all set, Ms. Norman asked, “Where do you live?”
“In Willits, 357 North Main.”
“Were you living there on December 8th?”
“Yes, with my wife Liv, my two disabled sons and my son Lars.”
“What if anything happened that day at about 12 noon?”
“I went to the bathroom to empty my colostomy bag and my son Lars was there sweeping the hall, and I told him I’d found his meth pipes that morning and if he was going to continue to live with us he would have to get himself into rehab for his meth addiction—”
“Objection,” said the defense attorney, Anthony Adams of the Public Defender’s office.
But the old man didn’t seem to hear, so Judge Carly Dolan spoke up and told Schwindt there’d been an objection and he had to wait until she ruled on it.
But Schwindt still didn’t seem to understand; he just looked exasperated and said, “I’d been trying to get him to go to rehab for quite some time. I then I went into the bathroom. I had only just gone in when Lars came in with the handle of the broom and he started whipping me with it like he’d gone insane. He hit me all over my head and face and I fell backwards into the bathtub, pulling down the shower curtain, and he got on top on me and started hitting me in the face with his fists as hard as he could, and he’s a big strong boy – I asked him to stop, I was begging him to stop, but I could see the hate in his eyes – he picked up the big jar we keep the toothbrushes in and he kept hitting me with it until I was losing consciousness and I knew I was going to die when my other boy Efrin came in and saw all the blood. Lars chased him out of the house, and I tried to get up and I fell, and finally I scrambled out of the tub, and ran out of the house to the car. I was really in fear my wife would be next, so I drove to the police department instead of the hospital, but it was a Sunday so it was locked and after I banged on the door for a while somebody came out and saw my condition and I asked them to go and help my wife. Then they loaded me into an ambulance – I had cuts all over my face and the bones were broken all around my eyes, my nose was broken and I had a cut between my fingers from the broken broom handle.”
All of this came out in something of an extended blurt from a feeble and frail old man and defense attorney Adams, wisely perhaps, declined cross examination of the witness, who was excused, and said, in parting, with a fearful glance at his son in the dock, all he wanted to do was get out of there.
Willits Police Officer Raymond Derek Hendry, recently promoted to Lieutenant, took the stand and testified that he’d been dispatched to the residence and took pictures of the broken and bloodied broom handle, the Mason jar, the blood and disorder of the bathroom. Hendry spoke to Schwindt’s wife Liv, 81, and learned that the defendant, Lars, had shoved her down into a bucket and that she was sore but otherwise unhurt from the incident. Hendry found Lars in the bathroom, talking to himself in the mirror, with the water running. Lars was taken into custody.
Deputy DA Norman: “Did you read him his Miranda rights?”
Lt. Hendry: “I did.”
Norman: “And did he agree to speak to you?”
Hendry: “He did.”
Norman: “Did you ask what happened?”
Hendry: “Yes, he stated he shoved his father into the tub and was beating him.”
Norman: “Did you ask why?”
Hendry: “Yes, and he gave a couple of reasons. One, was he thought maybe there had been molestation of one of his sons, and another was he was angry with his father for things in the past. He kept going back and forth on these issues and finally said he beat his father and wanted to go to prison.”
Photographs were shown of the blood on Lars’ shins and boots.
On cross-examination defense attorney Adams asked about the broken metal broom handle, its thickness, a hollow tube, not very heavy, but it had two screws protruding which may have cut the victim’s hand when he tried to get it away from his assailant; Adams asked about the unbroken Mason jar, suggesting that it would have broken if used as a deadly weapon, which was one of the charges against his client, Lars Schwindt.
Ms. Norman, for the prosecution, wanted the great bodily injury charged for the 11 stitches it took to seal the gash between the victim’s fingers, for the broken nose and bones around the eyes, in count One; for Count Two, assault with a deadly weapon (the Mason jar, and the victim’s statement that he thought he was going to die); Count Three, elder abuse to the father David Schwindt; Count Four, elder abuse for pushing down Liv Schwindt, an 81 year-old woman into a bucket.
Adams said he did not think the broom handle was inherently a deadly weapon, nor was the unbroken Mason jar “notwithstanding the victim’s opinion to the contrary. So I would object to a glass jar being characterized as a deadly weapon. Is it inherently dangerous? It is not, and in this instance it doesn’t rise to the level required by law.”
Norman: “I think it does, judge. He [the victim, David Schwindt] felt like he was going to die and the defendant was wailing away, breaking bones around the eyes and breaking his nose. This was a violent beating and the victim, a thin and frail man of advanced years, could have died. The defendant receives the benefit of the fact that the victim didn’t die, but he well could have.”
Adams: “There is the possibility, isn’t there, that my client’s fists, rather than the glass jar, caused the broken bones and the broken nose? To characterize the jar as a deadly weapon is not appropriate.”
Judge Dolan: “Submitted?”
Adams: “Submitted, your honor.”
Dolan: “The court finds there is sufficient evidence that this was an assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury and the defendant will be held to answer.”
Lars Schwindt: “Can I say something?”
Dolan: “You may not. The court also finds that the manner in which it was used [the broom handle] was dangerous and deadly; the court declines to find the 245a1 [Mason jar] but has a strong suspicion the defendant inflicted great bodily injury, and there’s sufficient evidence for the charge of elder abuse [for David and Liv Schwindt]; but insufficient for a 245a1 [use of deadly weapon on Liv].”
Lars Schwindt: “Will I get a chance to tell what really happened?”
Dolan: “You will have that opportunity at your trial, Mr. Schwindt.”
January 30th was set for arraignment on the information, at which time a trial date will be set.