Warning: The following story contains graphic details.
A Red Deer woman testified in court on Tuesday that her boyfriend beat her, dragged her into the basement and tried to hang her from a beam with a dog leash.
Zara Morrison testified in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench that on the morning of May 17, 2020 her boyfriend, Steven Matthew Hewitt, angrily accused her of seeing someone else and attacked her in the bedroom of the rented Red Deer home they shared shortly after she woke up.
Hewitt is on trial for attempted murder, uttering death threats and mischief.
Morrison testified that Hewitt punched her in the face, put a dog leash on her and dragged her into the kitchen, where he banged her head on the fridge and choked her unconscious.
When she revived, she testified that, “I remember gasping for air and him looking down on me and saying, ‘We’re not done yet.’”
Morrison said that, with the dog leash still around her neck, she was hauled down into the basement. The five-foot-two, 97-pound woman was hung from a beam and the six-foot-five, 240-pound Hewitt continued to punch and kick her, screaming at her that she was not going to live.
“I’m begging, ‘Please stop, please stop, please stop.’”
Morrison said Hewitt took a cellphone photo of her in the basement after she was attacked. It was presented as an exhibit in court.
She testified she made her escape after playing dead and when Hewitt left the basement she ran up the stairs and out of the house near 36 St. and 51 Ave. A passerby saw the injured woman running down the street in only a bra and panties and took her to hospital.
Crown prosecutor Bruce Ritter had Morrison go through more than 80 photos of her injuries taken at the hospital and later by RCMP. She was covered in bruises, including her face, back, arms, hips and stomach. Her neck was also bruised from the leash.
“It probably took four or five months for all the bruising to actually go away,” she testified.
Morrison was given the leash allegedly used in the attack and asked to identify it.
“That’s the leash he hung me with. And I don’t want it near me,” she said, before a court clerk took it away.
Under cross-examination, defence lawyer Krysia Przepiorka asked Morrison about past suicide attempts.
Morrison admitted she had made previous suicide attempts, including trying to hang herself with a dog leash from a closet clothes rod.
Przepiorka suggested to Morrison that on May 17 she made another suicide attempt by hanging herself in the basement while crouched on a pair of plastic paint pails. When Hewitt came down and saw what was happening he tackled her and landed on top of her and the pails, Przepiorka suggested.
Morrison firmly denied each detail of that scenario.
Przepiorka questioned Morrison closely about her testimony and inconsistencies or emissions from her police statement and testimony at a preliminary hearing last October.
At one point, Morrison felt like she was being “re-victimized” as she tried to recall the day of her attack, but insisted she was telling “1oo per cent the truth.”
Under cross-examination, Morrison admitted that on previous occasions she had lied to get Hewitt in trouble, saying he had broken household furnishings when the damage was actually caused by her.
Morrison got increasingly emotional as she was questioned about the basement beating. “He would kick me and I would go swinging. I was a punching bag.
“He had crazy eyes. I should have died that day,” she testified.
As the trial began, Hewitt pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to comply with court conditions by contacting Morrison and coming within 100 metres of her home. Two other breach charges are expected to be dropped.
The four-day trial before Justice David Labrenz continues on Wednesday.