ELIZABETHTOWN — Meredith King doesn’t want to remember the horrific day her husband choked her unconscious in their Westport home.
But she believes if she shares her experience, it may save others from what she went through.
King, the nurse-manager of outpatient services at Elizabethtown Community Hospital, has been speaking to groups and organizations in the area and recently appeared before the Essex County Board of Supervisors at the Old County Courthouse in Elizabethtown.
The room went silent as King took the podium and began speaking.
“On Sept. 25, 2011, my husband of 12 years nearly killed me, with our 8-year-old daughter in our home,” she said.
“I cannot overstate how much it changed me. My children’s lives are forever altered.”
She does, though, “continue to have support and loving people to help me through.”
King’s two children, who were 6 and 8 years old at the time of the assault, were not only in the home, she said, but the older child, a girl, was watching as her father punched and choked her mother.
She had told her husband, John, that she was leaving him and wanted a divorce.
Meredith described how he put his hands around her throat and cut off her breathing then shoved her into a corner of the room where she lay unconscious. She later awoke, injured, to see he was still in the room.
Her daughter had run upstairs and hidden, believing she would be attacked next.
Somehow, Meredith was able to call 911. State Police and EMTs soon showed up her house. Meanwhile, her husband ran outside with a gun and threatened to kill himself.
John King was eventually subdued by police and jailed. Then he got out of jail on home monitoring at a relative’s house with a GPS ankle bracelet.
“On many occasions, he was not where he was supposed to be,” Meredith said. “Police came to my home at 2 a.m. to see that we were OK, for which I am thankful.”
She got an order of protection that legally prevented her husband from coming near her or the house they’d shared.
“Our children were told if Daddy showed up on the doorstep, they needed to dial 911. How can any child understand that? My entire life has been turned upside down.”
Meredith said her employer was very supportive.
“A parking spot was arranged for me, and staff was on alert,” she said. “I knew I had to be as prepared as possible.”
It all left her exhausted and worried for her safety and that of her children.
“The man I loved, the father of my children, tried to kill me. This situation consumed me. I am just now regaining my life back.”
She had wanted to leave before that day, she said, but finally drew enough courage to tell her husband.
“I relive the experience over and over again, the feeling of terror and the belief I was going to die.”
In February, her husband pleaded guilty to felony first-degree strangulation to avoid an attempted murder trial and was sentenced to 10 years in state prison and five years of supervision when he gets out.
Meredith said he could be out in 2021 with time off for good behavior.
“I dread the day he’s released.”
Supervisor David Blades (R-Lewis), a retired State Police investigator, praised Meredith for publicly telling her story.
“I’d like to thank Meredith for her courage,” he said. “It must have been difficult for her to come here.”
Accompanying Meredith to the meeting was Nicky Sudduth of the Stop Domestic Violence program, who said domestic violence is a pattern of coercive tactics that are physical, psychological, emotional, sexual and economic.
“Sometimes they (victims) feel isolated and disconnected from their families,” Sudduth said. “The $2 million question is why don’t we hold the perpetrator responsible so they stop?”
She said in 2012, Stop Domestic Violence had 66 clients and nine women placed in safe houses for protection. In Essex County, there were 157 arrests in 2012 for domestic violence.
Like Sudduth, Angie DeGroff of the Essex County Department of Social Services is a member of the multi-agency Essex County Task Force Against Domestic Violence.
She urged county lawmakers to be aware of domestic-violence issues and know where to refer a victim.
“This is a very scary and important problem,” DeGroff said. “One in four women will be a victim of domestic violence in their lifetimes.
“We brought a very important topic to the table.”
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RESOURCES Stop Domestic Violence has a 24-hour hotline: (888) 563-6904. National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 799-SAFE (7233).