SANTA CRUZ -- The former girlfriend of a man charged with murder testified Wednesday that he had become physical with her on three occasions.
The woman said she dated Richard Chavez from 1999 to early 2001, and the couple lived together for part of that time. She said she hadn't seen him in 11 years before coming to court. Chavez is on trial for the Feb. 28, 2010 death of Deanna Dudley.
The Sentinel is not naming the woman because she is an alleged victim of sexual and domestic violence.
Under examination by prosecutor Jeff Rosell, the ex-girlfriend testified that Chavez became "dominating" in the course of their relationship.
Once, while camping in South Dakota, she said Chavez began calling her names, and acting "angry, scary, threatening." She said she tried to crawl out of the tent they were in but "he put his hands on my legs and pulled me back into the tent." Similar incidents occurred two other times, including once after she had moved to Germany to teach and Chavez was visiting.
Defense attorney Anthony Robinson asked if Chavez had ever slapped or punched her.
"No, he did not," she said, also testifying that she didn't remember if the incidents caused bruising. She also testified that Chavez forged her signature on two checks after they'd broken up.
Chavez is charged with first-degree murder for the death of Dudley, a longtime friend with whom he'd become romantically involved. Dudley, 37, died after being
Chavez' attorneys, Robinson and Mark Briscoe, admit Chavez struck Dudley, but argue the case doesn't fit the parameters of first-degree murder. They say the two were engaged in an alcohol-fueled fight, and that Dudley had been abusive before.
Also testifying Wednesday was Scott Bingham, who was a fire captain in Felton when Dudley died. He arrived at the Felton home where the couple lived and found Dudley lying on the floor of the bedroom closet. Blood filled her hair, and there were lacerations and torn skin on her head. She was unconscious, unresponsive, he said.
Chavez was kneeling by her head when Bingham came in and applying pressure to her head. He moved out of the way when emergency personnel arrived and they began performing first-aid, Bingham said.
The fire captain said he asked Chavez what had caused Dudley's injuries, and Chavez told him it was a flashlight. He asked him how many times she'd been hit and Chavez told him three or four. Bingham next asked Chavez who did it, to which he said Chavez quietly answered "I did."
Testimony will continue Thursday and then break for the holidays, picking up after New Year's Day.
Follow Sentinel reporter Jessica M. Pasko on Twitter at Twitter.com/jmpasko96