You know how the media likes to pounce on people and make public their dirtiest laundry? This is the opposite of one of those stories. When Lyna Warden first contacted the Weekly about telling her story, yours truly was reluctant. She kept asking, and months and months later, she's finally getting her wish.
Warden was the victim of domestic violence at the Budget Inn and Suites in Santa Ana in July 2013, and she wanted everyone to know it pretty close to right after it happened. Not only that, she wanted us to publish the photos of her from Garden Grove Hospital Medical Center, her attacker's name and her own real name (like we are doing now).
Here's the deal: When police or prosecutors send the media press releases about a domestic violence case that does not end in a victim's death, they don't name the victim; he or she is John Doe or Jane Doe. That's to protect the victim.
Then there are the accused. That's just what James Lewis was when his ex-girlfriend reached out to us: accused. That's since changed. Lewis pleaded guilty Dec. 10 to felony mayhem, felony corporal Injury on a spouse/cohabitant, felony assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury and two sentencing enhancements for inflicting great bodily injury.
Rather than recount the story in my words, let's let Warden do it via the victim impact statement she delivered in court. "By the time I was done reading, the defense was moved, along with the judge, and everyone else in there as well," she tells me. "I cried, but only a little bit and kept it together.
"The defendant kept his head down, according to my DA."
Read on and you'll understand why she could not look over herself to see his reaction.
I want to first thank the court and your honor for giving me this opportunity to speak today. I feel very blessed to be alive to do so today.
It was exactly three days following my 22nd birthday, on July 17, 2013, when I was lying in a hospital unrecognizable due to the actions of James Lewis. My life was forever altered due to the selfish actions of this man.
The attack occurred on July 16, 2013, and the bulk of it lasted for about five hours. He had been claiming to be anxious during the day, but wasn't allowing me to console him, but rather snapped at me for trying to find anything to do to make him happy. One second he wanted me near him and the next he didn't; one minute it has nothing to do with me, but the next it's my fault, whatever was going on, I still am unsure.
After being crammed in a hotel all day with James, he had suggested that I go down the street to buy a bottle of Sailor Jerry, and after many refusals to do so, I was manipulated to do so. This is how it always was, his way of getting what he wanted was manipulation. If I didn't go buy that bottle, I was going to be miserable because of him, but as it turns out it didn't matter if I went or not. Either way, I made the walk there and back for him. Once back in the hotel room all hell broke loose.
From the moment he started drinking shots I could see that it wasn't going to get any better, and before I knew it I was on the floor with a man that was almost a foot taller than me and a man almost a hundred pounds heavier than me, straddling me with his bare hands pressed against my mouth suffocating me, and I remember trying to scream through his hands to stop and he kept yelling at me saying that if I were quiet, he would [stop]. Really, it became clear to me that it didn't matter if I was quiet or loud, he was going to physically hurt me, and I didn't know why.
This occurred for nearly five hours without any outside help as I was making an effort to have someone hear me cry or scream, which in turn is why James was frequently putting his hands over my mouth, with all his weight, and I was bounced around the hotel room on several occasions, bounced into the walls, the bed, the coffee table and knocked to the ground. At one point during the incident, I saw an opportunity to escape. It was still daylight and he had decided to use the bathroom, so I immediately without hesitation ran out the door, but he was quick to catch up to me by the stairs of the hotel (we were located on the second floor), and he was pulling anything out to say in order to get me inside, and he saw my hesitation and grabbed me to pull be back inside, yanking me by the arm.
This continued until about 9:30-10 p.m. when I started feeling like he was just going to torture me until I died. I thought I was going to die. I thought he was going to kill me, and I asked him on several occasions that night if he was, and that if that was the case, I wanted him to just do it already. I was drained and my hair was in a mess with blood and I was unaware until making it to the hospital that he managed to bite my ear off in a fit of rage, and I had to have a skin graph to replace the top part of my right ear and several stitches to fix that, with three bite marks also on my right arm that broke skin pretty deep,
I can only imagine [the wounds] are from me trying to block him from damaging my head and face any more than he had already done. My eyes were swollen shut for three days following the attack; scars and scrapes and stitches lasted for a month after the attack. I had bandages on my head in order to protect my ear; I wasn't allowed a lot of sun exposure in fears the skin would fall off. It's a lot more that I could have ever imagined to happen, and I would never wish this upon my greatest enemy.
When he started claiming he was going to call his friends or brother for help, I was upset because he didn't even realize the damage he had done. When he brought me back into the hotel room after I tried to escape once, he forced me out of my clothes and into the shower in hopes of washing the blood pouring from my face and nose, also creating a deviated septum from the trauma, and I suffered a brain injury from the attack as well as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
By the end of the night, he had made a choice to walk outside of the hotel room and I saw my next opportunity; I ran and closed the door knowing that he had left the hotel key inside. That is when he began to try to verbally speak to me while on the phone with a friend of his and as I was yelling through the window asking why he did this to me, he was lying to his friend and acting like he didn't do anything and to just let him back inside. By then the manager of the hotel finally managed to come upstairs and say something, but instead of calling the police he asked him to leave, and while the manager was standing there I saw it in my best interest to run, so I opened the door and ran to the stairs; this time there was no going back.
He started to follow me and attempt for me to come back and all I remember is going downstairs and lying on the concrete yelling and crying for help. In video footage from the hotel, Detective Lopez made me aware that it showed me in my white blanket, because I had no clothes. It shows me walking downstairs, having a verbal altercation with James, going to the middle of the first floor and sitting and lying directly on my back, as if I had seen a ghost.
It has been a year and a half and writing this statement was the hardest thing for me to do, by recalling these memories that cause me nightmares and leave me unable to sleep. I wish to completely erase James Lewis from my life. I don't feel like I will be able to do that until he is given the time that he needs to face the consequences of his actions.
Following his actions, I am still suffering with Post Dramatic Stress Disorder and endure frequent nightmares and flashbacks. I hardly leave my house anymore due to fear of my safety. I have a deviated septum following the attack and a permanently disfigured ear, along with scars on my body to remind me of what a man I told I loved every day for almost two years did to me. Fortunately, I am back in school going to online classes to complete my degree to become a paralegal in order to go more into depth into being able to help others break their silence and come forward just as I have.
The only thing I came here today to tell James directly is: You never wanted me to have closure, and somehow I am getting it; unfortunately, that was never how I saw it happening. Either way, you are where you are today because of something you chose to do and escalate to an extreme level at your own hands. I forgive you, because when you forgive someone you take away their power. I am letting go today, of all the hurtful words you've ever said to me, of all the pain I've suffered because of you, and all the hatred that I have for you. I will never be able to forget what I have been through, but I will no longer look back and be upset. There will always be physical scars, but I am beautiful and you will never take away my happiness again. James showed me how strong I am, and that I survived that night for a reason. I have survived to speak up and give hope to others. It is possible to get up even when you feel like everything is gone.
Your honor, after hearing everything I have been through, I am asking for justice and nothing more. Thank you again for giving me this opportunity to speak.
So why not share Lyna's story way back when she wanted me to? Because yours truly did not want to do anything that might screw up her case and prevent me from typing the following words:
James Lewis is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 20.