The dark-haired woman wept bitterly in court, Friday morning, while a judge sentenced her husband to 15 years in prison for rape and forcible sodomy.
Making the scene even more heartwrenching was the fact that she wasn't just his wife — she was also the victim of his crimes.
"This defendant has shown a clear pattern of escalating violence against [her]," said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Penny Azcarate before Eric Alfonso Hernandez' sentencing. "The victim stated that she thought he was going to kill her ... he's a serious danger to [her]."
The incident occurred June 25. Hernandez, 39, of 4004 Kimberly Glen Court in Chantilly, was estranged from his 32-year-old wife — and she had even taken out a protective order against him. But that night, he went to her home around 7:30 p.m. and wouldn't take "no" for an answer.
According to a June 26 affidavit for a search warrant written by county police Det. Shawn Perkins, she and Hernandez began to argue. A struggle ensued and then, wrote Perkins, "The victim ended up on the floor in her living room. Hernandez began to kiss [her] against her will while holding a utility knife to [her] throat."
The detective wrote that, after Hernandez forced his wife to engage in oral sex with him, he raped her. She also told Perkins that she'd "scratched Hernandez on his chest and neck during the assault." And when police arrested the Chantilly man, June 26 around 1 a.m., the arresting officer observed scratches on Hernandez' upper chest and neck.
POLICE CHARGED him with rape, forcible sodomy and abduction with the intent to defile. Then on Oct. 7 in Circuit Court, the prosecution agreed to drop the abduction charge, and Hernandez entered Alford pleas of guilt to rape and forcible sodomy. (He didn't admit guilt, but acknowledged the existence of enough evidence to convict him).
He returned to court Friday for sentencing, and Kim Phillips, his public defender, told Judge David Stitt the weapon her client used that night was a box cutter. Still, she requested as light a sentence as possible for Hernandez, and noted that this conviction would probably result in his being deported to his native Guatemala.
"While he's been incarcerated, he realized his drug use is out of control," said Phillips. "He has an extreme addiction to cocaine and alcohol, and he's very remorseful."
But as far as the prosecutor was concerned, Hernandez' substance-abuse problems were no excuse for his actions. Said Azcarate: "Justice demands that he receive a long period of incarceration to make sure he never walks the streets of this community again."
Hernandez then stood and addressed both his wife and the judge before sentencing. "That night, I was under the influence of alcohol and drugs," he said. "I didn't realize what happened until I heard my wife's testimony [at my trial]."
HE SAID HE'S working on his anger problem and understands that he needs professional help to overcome his addiction. "I know I can be a good husband and a good father to my boys," he said. "I hope and I pray to be there [for them], because I never had [a father] by my side."
As his wife cried softly, he turned and told her "how sorry and repentful I am for what I did to someone I love. I hope you can someday forgive me. I never meant to hurt you."
But the judge had the final say, and he didn't mince words. "This was a particularly brutal attack," he told Hernandez. "You pulled a box cutter on a woman you profess to love."
Stitt noted that these were Hernandez' eighth and ninth convictions here and — "as if that wasn't bad enough" — at the time of the offense, he was under a restraining order to stay away from his wife. He then sentenced Hernandez to 40 years in prison on each charge, suspending 25 years of each sentence.
He ordered the sentences to run concurrently, leaving the Chantilly man with 15 years total to serve. He also placed Hernandez on 30 years probation following his release and ordered him to receive substance-abuse and sex-offender treatment, plus anger-management counseling.
"You are to have no contact with the victim and to maintain full-time employment," said Stitt. "And the INS [Immigration and Naturalization Service] will be notified of your conviction."