A man who stalked a Missoula woman — including writing messages to her that said “dead” — received a three-year deferral of sentence Tuesday after pleading no contest to a felony charge.
Patrick Powell’s case dates back to July 2016 when he was first arrested and charged with stalking. According to court documents, between May and July of that year, Powell repeatedly broke an order of protection against him by contacting his former partner and the mother of his child.
The woman, Ariella Alexander, who allowed the Missoulian to publish her name, told District Court Judge Karen Townsend during Tuesday’s sentencing hearing that she came home in July 2016 and found the word “dead” carved into the gate of her house, along with a note that also said “dead.”
The same day, Powell posted a message to his Facebook page that included the phrase “dead by the gate,” according to court records. Days later, he passed a pair of figurines to the woman, one of which had the word “dead” written on the bottom, Powell’s charging documents stated.
Alexander told the judge that months before finding the note in her gate Powell had threatened to kill her, and that after finding the note she and her son left their home to live in a safe house. She has since started seeing a therapist for anxiety and other issues that stem from her fear of Powell, and said she’s felt that the court system hasn’t done enough to ensure her and her son’s safety.
“I felt let down by the system that is supposed to be there to protect me,” she said.
Alexander said she considers herself a survivor, not a victim, and didn’t like that she was referred to only as Jane Doe in charging documents.
“The survivors of domestic violence are real people and we're here to be heard,” she said.
In January, as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors, Powell pleaded no contest to his felony count of stalking.
Townsend on Tuesday chose to follow that plea agreement, which called for a three-year deferral of sentence, meaning that the conviction can be scrubbed from Powell’s record if he follows certain conditions.
Noting that Powell has “created significant terror” in Alexander, Townsend said she was going along with the deferred sentence because it was his first felony conviction. A probation officer who screened Powell also found him to be low risk, and Townsend noted he had already spent 84 days in jail while the case has been active.
However, the judge told Powell that if he violates the conditions of his sentence, in particular any further violations of the order of protection, “You can count on going to prison.”