Sentences are handed down
Harry Strudwick, the 70 year old man who faced sentencing for felony malicious assault in Tyler County Circuit Court July 28, claimed the attack occurred because of his “mental unstability” and the fact that he was “pretty swacked” on wine at the time.
Strudwick has remained incarcerated in North Central Regional Jail since the September 2010 assault on his neighbor, David Dronsfield. Strudwick bit Dronsfield’s face, causing serious injury, which was further compounded by the victim going into cardiac arrest while hospitalized for the wound.
When addressing the court, Strudwick explained to Circuit Judge David W. Hummel, Jr., that he and Dronsfield had known each other for almost 20 years, and it was always an adversarial relationship.
“My wife had passed away, I was trying to sell my house, trying to work with (Dronsfield),” said Strudwick. “He kept causing unnecessary problems.”
“I had a nervous breakdown,” continued Strudwick, “I was under so much stress. Then I started drinking wine. I was pretty swacked,” he continued, describing how the attack began.
Strudwick ended up at Dronsfield’s house, entering the dwelling and attacking his victim while the man was watching television. During the assault, Strudwick bit a quarter-sized chunk of flesh from Dromsfield’s face.
“The next thing I knew,” said Strudwick, “I had blacked out. I came to with Dronsfield on top of me on the floor, choking me.”
Strudwick then told the judge, “He (Dronsfield) kept saying, ‘relax, and I’ll let you up.’ So I relaxed, and he let go of me.”
“When I stood up, he said ‘look what you’ve done to my face,'” concluded Strudwick. “The whole incident was unfortunate.”
Strudwick’s attorney, Roger Weese, also spoke to Judge Hummel on his client’s behalf. “He was under a tremendous amount of stress – he’d lost his wife, he’d lost his job (as a dishwasher), he was trying sell his property. Things got overwhelming,” said Weese.
“Mr. Strudwick had never acted like this before,” asserted Weese. “He was a long time member of the armed services, and he served his country well, and with honor. This speaks to his character.”
Weese asked the court for lenience in sentencing Strudwick. He also called Strudwick’s neice to testify on his behalf.
Strudwick’s niece, who lives approximately three hours from Tyler County (in Ohio) said she and her whole family would support Strudwick if he was released by the court, and explained he would be welcome to live with them. She did not feel Strudwick to be a threat to others.
Prosecuting Attorney D. Luke Furbee, speaking on behalf of the State, called Strudwick’s attack on Dronsfield “barbaric.”
“I think this case speaks for itself,” he began. “An innocent man was attacked in his home by Mr. Strudwick.”
“This attack was so severe, so barbaric, it nearly killed him,” Furbee added. “Mr. Strudwick chewed on the man’s face.”
“Now, I realize, people get mad. Sometimes, they get mad enough to fight,” continued the prosecutor. “But I have never seen such massive injury as this, before. The victim went into cardiac arrest later! This could’ve been a much worse scenario.”
“Marcus Aurelius said, ‘how much more grievous are the consequences of anger, than the causes of it,'” continued Furbee. “This was a property dispute, and could have been handled civilly.”
“Instead, we have a classic case of malicious assault,” he said. “If this case doesn’t meet the statute of the crime, what case would?”
“Mr. Strudwick is not uneducated. He’s not unsophisticated,” continued Furbee. “The victim was also a man of advancing years. Age would typically bespeak a man’s maturity.”
“Every morning, when Mr. Dronsfield looks in the mirror, he sees the effects of this unwarranted attack,” said Furbee.
“The state would ask the defendant be punished to the full extent of the law,” he concluded.
Judge Hummel, when handing down sentencing, said, “Mister Prosecutor is right. This crime does fit squarely into the statutes malicious assault.”
“As a military man, you should know, from your experience serving this country,” Hummel continued, addressing Strudwick. “that part of your duty was to protect our country’s liberties, against enemies both foreign and domestic. You violated those personal liberties.”
Hummel sentenced Strudwick to a West Virginia Dept. of Corrections facility for a period of not less than two, or more than 10 years. Strudwick will receive credit for time served. The victim in the case did not seek restitution.
Shawn W. Long, convicted by a Tyler County jury this past June of one count domestic battery (second offense), also faced Judge Hummel for sentencing.
Long’s attorney Keith Hart attested Long had “his head in the lion’s mouth for over two years,” referring to the fact that Long was accused of several felony charges, although only convicted of one.
Long’s two-day jury trial resulted from charges stemming from a domestic complaint, and included felony kidnapping, malicious assault, assault during the commission of a felony, and domestic battery (second offense).
Hart told the court Long had been attending AA meetings since being released on home confinement, prior to sentencing. Hart also told the court there were no AA/NA meetings at North Central Regional Jail, only brochures.
Hart emphasized Long had the ability to become employed, if placed on alternative sentencing, saying it would do not profit the state to have to foot the bill for Long’s incarceration.
Long then addressed Judge Hummel, standing to say, “This has been a long, tragic experience for everyone.”
“It’s been excruciating for me,” he added. “I am truly sorry for the situation that happened.”
“I regularly attend AA now,” Long said. “I’m going back to church, for the first time in years. I have the best relationship with my mother, that I’ve had in years. I’ve learned my lesson”
“I’ve lost everything,” Long continued. “I’ve lost my job, I lost the money for my kids’ college education, everything.”
“I don’t think going back to (NCRJ) will do me any good,” he concluded. Long said he is also participating in anger management classes.
Prosecuting Attorney D. Luke Furbee spoke for the state, beginning by saying, “Forgive me if I’m not sympathetic to the defendant for the stress he’s been under. I do feel sorry for Brandi George (Long’s victim).”
“It’s an age-old theme,” the prosecutor continued. “The victim gets put on trial, not only in the court of law, but in the court of public opinion. Consider the stress, and the pressure, Ms. George has been under.”
Furbee listed Long’s several offenses and convictions. “He was convicted of assault, in 1999. He was convicted by a jury, in 2003, of battery on a police officer. He was convicted of destruction of property, in 2004, and convicted of battery on a police officer, and DUI, first offense, in 2010.”
“Mr. Long has demonstrated, time and again, he cannot be a peaceful citizen. He had alternate sentencing in the past. He was on bond at the time this crime was committed.”
He’s learned nothing from his encounters with the law,” Furbee went on. “No one, in the prosecutor’s office, or in the Sheriff’s office, persecuted Mr. Long. There is no ‘vendetta’, as claimed by Long during his trial – only the law, which he broke, and was prosecuted for.”
“Shawn Long doesn’t respect the laws of society,” concluded Furbee. “He doesn’t respect the laws of this court.”
“I urge the court to impose the sentence of one year’s incareration,” Furbee said. “In this case, I think it would be money well spent.”
Long then addressed the judge in rebuttal to the prosecution, apologizing to the court again.
“Don’t apologize to me,” said Judge Hummel. “Apologize to her.” (Brandi George, who did not address the court, was seated in the courtroom at sentencing.) Long turned to face George at the judge’s urging, and said, “I’m sorry for everything I put you through.”
Addressing the judge once more, Long said, “I’ve had my lickings. I’ve learned my lesson. I’m doing the best I can now.”
Judge Hummel told Long, “Your tiger stripes, or leopard’s spots, are deep, and haven’t changed. You are a self-confessed fighter. You are an ass.”
“After hearing how you spoke to your mother (in testimony during trial of phone conversations from NCRJ), you owe your mother an apology, and this court orders you to do that.”
Hummel then sentenced Long to one year in NCRJ, suspended, alternate sentencing of home confinement and supervised probation. Long was also ordered to attend at least two AA meetings a week, and to attend anger management classes at his own expense.
Judge Hummel told Long, “If your behavior doesn’t change, all I’m doing is setting you up for the ‘delayed entry program’ at NCRJ.”