St. Croix man, 73, charged with slashing his wife and daughter accepts plea deal just before trial begins
Published: October 25, 2013
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ST. CROIX - George Herman made an eleventh-hour decision Thursday morning to accept a plea deal in the V.I. Superior Court case in which he is charged with brutally slashing his wife and daughter with a machete during a domestic dispute almost four years ago.
As the 12 jurors and three alternates who were selected to hear the case against him sat in a back room of the court awaiting the start of the trial Thursday morning, Herman's attorney, Ronald Russell, informed the court that Herman was interested in avoiding the jury trial by entering a no-contest plea in the case.
Herman, 73, is charged with first-degree assault; mayhem; third-degree assault; and carrying or using a dangerous weapon during the commission of a crime of violence stemming from the Nov. 1, 2009, incident. Police said Herman struck his wife and daughter several times with a machete, leaving them seriously injured during a fight at their home in Upper Love that afternoon.
Herman initially had entered a not guilty plea in the case and demanded a jury trial until Thursday, the day the trial was expected to start.
According to the plea deal offered by Assistant Attorney General Joseph Ponteen, Herman entered an Alford Plea, which says that while he is changing his not-guilty plea, he at the same time maintains his innocence, because he realizes that the evidence against him is such that a reasonable jury would be likely to find him guilty of the charges against him.
In an in-chambers hearing, Herman agreed to plead guilty to the third-degree charges as they relate to each of the women. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dismissed the remaining charges against him.
After the plea, Herman is exposed to a maximum of five years in prison on each of the two charges, rather than facing more than 60 years in prison if he was convicted of the previous charges against him.
According to a probable cause fact sheet filed by V.I. Police Detective Gregory Charlery, emergency dispatchers said a child called about 4:30 on Nov. 1, 2009, and reported that an ambulance was needed at the home.
Charlery said once she got there, she made contact with Herman's daughter, who said during an argument, he became enraged and picked up a 12-inch knife and threatened her with it but was pushed away by her mother.
She said he came at her again with the knife and swung it aggressively in her face, and she put her hand up to block her face and was cut, according to court documents.
According to Charlery, the daughter said she ran from the room for cover after she was cut, and Herman followed her, and grabbed a brown-handled machete - which measured 24 inches long - and swung at her.
The daughter said she blocked the first blow with her right hand and was struck on her wrist, and Herman swung repeatedly cutting off her left thumb, and striking her on her upper right arm, at which time her mother intervened and was struck with the machete on both hands, according to Charlery's affidavit.
According to the police report, both women ran from the house with Herman chasing after them with the machete, while a 10-year-old girl who was there called police for assistance.
Charlery said that when police responded to the home Herman was holding the machete.
An investigation revealed that both women received deep lacerations to their arms and body and that the daughter's thumb and the mother's pinky finger were completely severed during the attacks, according to Charlery.
When Herman was taken into custody, he waived his right to remain silent and said the attack was in self-defense, according to the report.
He told police that he and his daughter got into an argument, and she pulled a machete on him. He said he took the machete away from her and struck her several time about her body, according to the report.
He admitted that his wife came to intervene and he also struck her and chased them outside, according to Charlery.
Herman has been on pre-trial release pending the outcome of the trial against him and on Thursday, despite his plea to the violent crime, he was allowed to continue on those release conditions pending his sentencing at 9 a.m. Feb. 26.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email email@example.com.