Man to serve life in attack on ex-girlfriend
Richmonder apologizes for ambushing woman with a machete Dec. 31
Thursday, Sep 11, 2008 – 12:50 AM Updated: 01:31 AM
By REED WILLIAMS
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
Anything less than a death sentence, Paul Bratton told a judge yesterday, would be better than he deserved for his machete attack that left a former girlfriend disfigured.
Bratton, 53, faced up to life in prison for last year's attack in Richmond, and that is what he was given.
Richmond Circuit Judge Walter W. Stout III said he could see that Bratton was sorry for ambushing Davette Hayes and striking her 10 to 15 times with a machete outside Richmond Community Hospital on New Year's Eve.
"But I have to tell you that this is probably the most vicious attack I've seen in my time on the bench," Stout said.
Bratton emerged from some bushes the morning of Dec. 31 and delivered the attack just as Hayes was going to work at the hospital, said Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Tracy Thorne-Begland. It happened shortly after a breakup between the two, the prosecutor said.
He was arrested the next day after he tried to kill himself by drinking antifreeze. Richmond police Detective Arcellious Demery was in charge of the investigation. The defendant pleaded guilty in July to four felony charges.
Yesterday, Stout sentenced him to life in prison on a charge of aggravated malicious wounding and gave him suspended sentences on one count of attempted murder and two counts of stabbing. Sentencing guidelines had called for a total sentence of 15 to 33 years.
Hayes, 53, gave a detailed account of her injuries in court yesterday.
She said her right hand was nearly severed, her top teeth were sheared off, and her tongue had to be sewed back on. She still has problems keeping her balance some days. Her sight was also damaged, and she has constant numbness and tingling in her face and lips.
Hayes, who still has scars across her face, broke down in tears as she told the court that her 3-year-old granddaughter "didn't want me to touch her because of how I looked."
"My life as I knew it is not the same," Hayes told the court.
For most of her testimony, Bratton sat slumped with his face buried in his arms on top of the defense table. His defense attorney said Bratton had been on antidepressant medication and stopped taking it before the attack, and that he had shown signs of mental illness.
When he stood to speak, Bratton apologized and told the judge that no sentence could hurt him worse than he already had hurt himself.
"Anything short of a life — death sentence is too good for me," Bratton told the judge, apparently changing his mind in mid-sentence.
Hayes started crying uncontrollably and was escorted from the courtroom. She could be heard screaming just outside.
Bratton, of Richmond, has a criminal record that includes a 10-year sentence in 1990 for forcible sodomy and a 1991 conviction for grand larceny. He also has robbery convictions.
Hayes also testified yesterday that she broke her wrist when Bratton pushed her down about three months before the machete attack.
She said she didn't tell the police because Bratton said he would go back to prison for the rest of his life.
"Women should know," Hayes said after the hearing, "that they do not have to live like that."
Contact Reed Williams at (804) 649-6332 or firstname.lastname@example.org.