A Missoula man was arrested on suspicion of strangling his wife in front of their young daughter earlier this month.
Owen A. Switzer, 38, is charged with three felonies: reasonable apprehension of aggravated assault, bodily-injury aggravated assault and first-offense strangulation. If convicted of all three counts, Switzer faces up to 45 years in state prison.
On Monday, 911 received a call from a First Step Resource Center employee on behalf of the survivor. The First Step staffer reported the woman had asked them to contact authorities to report she had been strangled by Switzer about two weeks prior, on March 5.
Missoula County Sheriff's deputies responded to Mourning Dove Drive to talk with the survivor. She said she was in an argument with Switzer when he grabbed her throat with both hands and forced her backwards. She rated the pressure he applied as a nine on a scale of one to 10, according to charging documents.
People are also reading…
In her affidavit, she indicated she thought was going to die during this, and told law enforcement Switzer had threatened to kill her in the past. She estimated the struggle lasted about 90 seconds.
The survivor said she thought Switzer would have killed her if their 2-year-old daughter had not intervened, who was only a few feet away during the attack and yelling at Switzer to stop. This allowed the woman to escape Switzer's grip and run into the bathroom, according to charging documents.
Switzer pushed the woman, causing her to fall against the edge of a bathtub, breaking three of her ribs. When she asked him to take her to the hospital, charging documents say Switzer refused.
She was apprehensive to call 911 immediately because she was afraid of Switzer's reaction: she disclosed Switzer has physically harmed her in the past on at least two prior occasions. To treat the pain in her ribs, the survivor sought medical treatment at Community Medical Center where staff diagnosed her with three displaced rib fractures.
In an interview with deputies, Switzer said the two were in a fight and he did push the woman into the bathtub, but didn't describe any strangulation.
During Switzer's initial appearance on Wednesday afternoon, Missoula County Justice of the Peace Alex Beal set bail at $100,000. An arraignment hearing is set for April 4.
Strangulation is a significant predictor of future lethal violence, and if someone has been strangled by a partner in the past, their risk of being killed by them is 10 times higher, according to Just Response, a project by the Office on Violence Against Women in the U.S. Department of Justice.
There are many resources available in Missoula for domestic violence survivors.
The Missoula YWCA provides 24-hour crisis counseling, emergency shelter, transitional housing, mental health counseling, legal support and support groups for victims of crime. Their phone number is 406-542-1944.
The Missoula City-County Crime Victim Advocate Program provides legal advocacy for victims of crimes. Advocates can help you obtain a restraining order, report a crime to police or navigate options available to you through the justice system. They can be reached at 406-258-3830.
UM's Student Advocacy Resource Center also provides support for survivors of violence and harassment. They offer free and confidential counseling, advocacy and a 24-hour support line at 406-243-6559.