Felipe Torres trial

Felipe "Fel" Torres, former drummer for Johnny Cash tribute band The Cold Hard Cash Show, is facing domestic violence charges from two incidents earlier this year. His trial began Monday at Missoula County District Court.

The prosecution's case against Felipe "Fel" Torres for domestic violence continued into its second day Tuesday, with testimony from his former girlfriend and those around her who tried to help.

Together, the witnesses told the story of three significant altercations that led to Torres facing trial this week for domestic violence charges. The Missoulian is choosing not to name the woman and principal witness because she is an alleged victim of a violent crime.

Carly Champion, a friend and the woman's co-worker at Goodwill, was living at the home with the woman and Torres in January. Champion was a witness to one outburst that caused her concern, then a few more as time went on, she said. 

After one argument in January, Champion was concerned enough to offer her friend stay at her parents' house, where Torres wouldn't know where she was. The next day, Torres was essentially waiting for them in the parking lot, Champion said. 

The encounter ramped up quickly, with Torres smashing the woman's glass coffee mug outside Champion's car. Torres, apparently wanting to speak with his girlfriend about where she had been, tried clawing the woman from the car, Champion said.

"He was reaching for her neck, so I pepper-sprayed him," she said.

Missoula Police Officer Ken Smith responded to the Goodwill and documented a scratch on the woman's arm and the broken glass mug in the parking lot.

Asked during his testimony on Monday if he recovered any surveillance footage from the store, Smith said he did not follow up with the store manager. Smith is part of MPD's patrol unit and figured a detective assigned to the case would retrieve the footage. No one ever did, and it was likely deleted after some time had passed.

Torres is charged with one count of misdemeanor assault from the January incident at Goodwill. The woman filed a protection order against him then, but she testified on Tuesday that he soon reached out from an unknown number. She knew it was him when the incoming text messages began reciting her own poetry back to her. Soon, they agreed to meet in person.

At first their rekindling was good — better, even, than it was before, she said.

"Until he heard something he didn't like," she said.

On April 24, she filed a petition with the court to lift the restraining order placed on him for the January charge. Leading up to her filing it, she said Tuesday that Torres had pressured her into dropping the restraining order.

"I didn't really want it dropped to start off with, but he said that was the only way he could save his reputation and do well in court," she testified, "and that that was the only way we could be together is if that wasn't there."

She had stayed through previous altercations, including last Christmas, when she testified that he grabbed her around the throat because she didn't put the Christmas lights up by the time he got home. There was another time he slung a cooking pot across the room because she got groceries when he hadn't approved her spending the money, she said.

On July 10, after they moved back in together, the woman said she dumped a slushy on him after finding some sexually-charged texts with another woman on his phone. He cornered her, she said, and headbutted her square in the nose. Robin Hammond, Torres' public defender, referred to this strictly as a "collision."

The woman didn't go to police that day. It was a few days later, July 13, when she said his anger escalated again, putting her in a choke hold once she began packing her things to leave. Savannah Anderson, another friend living at the house, was downstairs when she said she heard the woman scream.

"Things had escalated to a point where it was obvious (the woman) needed to get out of the house," Anderson said. 

Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst opened the trial on Monday by telling the jury this case would be about Torres' "unwavering need to control another person." Several people, including Torres' former bandmate in the well-known Cold Hard Cash Show, previously told the Missoulian about Torres' controlling and tormenting behavior, as well.

"Is it fair to say the defendant really wanted you back when you weren't there?" Pabst asked the woman on Tuesday. 

"Yes," she replied.

"And went to great efforts to get you back?"

"Yes," she said again. 

Torres has been jailed since July, but the woman is now out of that home and getting into new living arrangements. She testified Tuesday that she had just signed a new renter's agreement on Monday. 

Torres' defense is scheduled to begin Wednesday.

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