October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. And prosecutors in Pierce County say they have a particularly disturbing case of it on their hands, announcing this morning that 41-year-old William Selley has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of his 29-year-old girlfriend, Kathryn Southward.
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Prosecutors had originally charged Selley with assault stemming from the alleged late-September beating of his live-in girlfriend, but murder charges were added today after Southward tragically passed away from the injuries she sustained.
According to court documents filed by the Pierce County Prosecutor's Office, Selley called 911 on Sept. 26 and reported Southward was incoherent and had vomited a dark substance. When police arrived, Selley allegedly told authorities that the two had gotten drunk at a bar on Sept. 23 and after returning home Southward had fallen backward and hit her head on a piece of furniture. Selley told police he put her on the couch for the next three days, and stayed home to care for her - saying he didn't seek medical attention because the couple lacked medical insurance.
On Sept. 26, after Southward vomited the dark substance, court documents indicate Selley called his mother for advice. When Selley's mother saw Southward's condition, she immediately realized her son's girlfriend was in serious condition and told him to call 911.
According to court documents filed in the case, the full extent of Southward's injuries was discovered upon arriving at the hospital. Court documents indicate: "Hospital staff advised Ms. Southward had three broken ribs, a partially collapsed lung and other internal organ damage. She also had bruises all over her body in various stages of healing."
Investigators were assigned to the case, and soon attempted to interview Southward and Selley.
From the determination of probable cause initially filed in the case (when it was still only an assault):
Police met with Ms. Southward at the hospital and notice bruising to her head/face/eyes. She answered their questions with "I don't know" and was unable to sign any paperwork. Her family members advised there has been a history of violence between the defendant and Ms. Southward. Forensics arrived to take photographs of Ms. Southward's injuries, but she was uncooperative and said she was not pressing charges.
A detective was assigned to the case and met with the defendant who was advised of his Miranda rights which he waived. The defendant made a consistent statement that Ms. Southward was intoxicated and fell causing her injuries. He also stated they crashed to the ground together. He picked her up, but dropped her again. He thought he may have dropped her a third time prior to dragging her in the house. The defendant maintained Ms. Southward hit her head "hard, so hard" when she fell backwards into a table. He confirmed he did not call 911 for days because they could not afford it. He denied he assaulted her. When the detective used a ruse and told him Ms. Southward said he assaulted her, the defendant denied it. He then said he did not remember anything else that happened until 0500 in the morning.
The detective met with Ms. Southward in the intensive care unit. The detective noted that he had never seen a victim so badly injured that was not deceased. Ms. Southward's face and arms were covered with bruises (she later allowed her injuries to be photographed). She repeated said she did not know or remember what happened. She said she did not want to press charges, but admitted the defendant assaulted her before. The detective used a ruse and told her the defendant confessed. Ms. Southward denied he hit her with an object or threw her against anything. However, she did admit he used his fists to assault her.
According to prosecutors, on Oct. 5 Southward died of the injuries she sustained. An autopsy determined that the cause of death were injuries due to blunt force trauma to the chest and abdomen.
"October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and this murderous assault unfortunately highlights the need to continue our efforts to hold abusers accountable and to prevent domestic violence," Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said in a written statement distributed to the media.
Selley is scheduled to be re-arraigned this afternoon at 1:30 p.m. on murder charges.