Man gets 20 years for beating ex-wife to death with fire extinguisher


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ST. CROIX - The man who beat his ex-wife with a fire extinguisher almost four years ago and left her dying on the side of the road was given a 20-year prison sentence Wednesday afternoon.

In a courtroom filled with people sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, Timothy Rodney appeared before V.I. Superior Court Judge Douglas Brady dressed in his red Corrections Bureau prisoner's uniform, with his wrists shackled around his waist and with chains on his ankles. His head and face were clean-shaven as he stood facing the judge.

Rodney initially was arrested May 8, 2010, and charged with first-degree assault and possession of a dangerous weapon during the commission of a crime of violence after Iola Martin was found bleeding on the side of North Shore Road. When Martin died almost a week later at a Florida hospital, the charge against Rodney was upgraded to first-degree murder.

Rodney had pleaded not guilty until last year, when he accepted an offer from prosecutors and entered a plea of guilty to voluntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum of 10 years in prison, and to the weapon possession charge, which carries a minimum sentence of five years and up to 15 years.

First Principal Public Defender H. Hannibal O'Bryan said the events have been tragic for both sets of families, and Rodney gives his sincere apology to them. O'Bryan said Rodney has taken full responsibility for his actions and pleaded guilty.

The public defender said the act was not one that was planned when Rodney went to Martin's workplace, where she was a custodian, to help her with her duties. O'Bryan said something happened that caused an argument before Rodney took the extinguisher and hit her with it repeatedly.

He said the actions were out of character for Rodney and that 14 letters submitted to the court on his behalf attest to that.

O'Bryan asked the court to merge the sentences on the two convictions to limit Rodney's prison exposure to a 15-year maximum.

Rodney addressed the court and said he was sorry for what he had done and asked for forgiveness from the court, from his family and from Martin's family.

"Every day it stays on my mind, I wish I could bring her back, and if I could bring her back, I would," he said. Rodney asked the court to show him leniency and said he has asked God to give strength to Martin's family and to his own family, who also are hurting because of his actions.

Assistant Attorney General Zulema Chapman said she did not know how defense counsel could say there was no premeditation when Rodney continuously stalked the woman for days before the brutal assault.

Chapman said the two were married, and in 2009, Martin filed a domestic violence case and was granted a restraining order. Martin filed additional complaints with the court and filed for divorce, as Rodney continued to stalk and threaten her, trying to intimidate her until the night when he beat her and left her there, Chapman said.

"They found a pool of blood inside the place," she said. "This is a text-book case of domestic violence."

Chapman said the people who wrote letters on Rodney's behalf should think of how they would react if their family member or friend had suffered such an assault.

She asked the court to hand down the maximum 25-year sentence for Rodney.

Martin's daughter, Laura Turbe, spoke on behalf of the family and outlined a relationship that was rife with verbal, physical and emotional abuse for years.

Some of Turbe's siblings and aunts consoled each other as she spoke, and tears rolled down their faces.

Turbe said her brother went to live with her mother so he could protect her from the abuse, and when her mother had taken enough of the abuse, she left Rodney and he made her life miserable until he ultimately killed her. Turbe said she and her siblings have been traumatized and have drifted apart since their mother was killed and said Rodney needed to pay for what he did.

According to police, Martin was conscious and able to tell police what occurred when they responded to a 911 call made by a co-worker at 6:19 a.m. May 8. The co-worker found Martin lying in the road and bleeding from her head when the co-worker arrived at work at a Cane Bay restaurant.

Police said Martin was cleaning the restaurant about 6 a.m. before it opened when Rodney approached and started cursing her. At some point in the argument, he grabbed a fire extinguisher from the wall and used it to hit her on the head several times, according to court documents.

Martin jumped from the restaurant's 15-foot high balcony to get away, and she eventually collapsed on the side of the road.

Rodney was picked up the same afternoon and admitted that he hit his ex-wife with a fire extinguisher. He said she fell over the balcony, at which point he threw the fire extinguisher into the bushes and fled the scene.

Before imposing a sentence, Brady said he appreciates Rodney's remorse and recognition of the tragedy. However, the judge said Rodney showed no regret after the assault when he left Martin to die, and the remorse and cooperation with police came only after he was caught and arrested at his job hours later.

Brady said there was a significant history of violence in the relationship, which did not mean that Rodney did not love Martin or that she did not love him, but Rodney abused the relationship and Martin's death is solely on his hands.

Brady said he looked at the letters written on behalf of Rodney and is baffled by how someone of such good character as described in the letters could have displayed the amount of violence that Rodney did.

Brady sentenced Rodney to the maximum 10 years in prison on the manslaughter charge and to an additional 10 years in prison - which he must serve in its entirety - on the weapon charge. The judge ordered that the sentences run consecutively.

Several members of Martin's family left the courtroom upset, saying the sentence did not send a clear message about the penalties for taking a life.

Cynthia Richardson, Martin's daughter, said Rodney was shown leniency when he was given the plea deal, and the judge should have handed down the maximum sentence. She said her mother is gone because of Rodney, and he should have to pay the maximum penalty for his actions, because he had a choice.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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