Police say violent relationship nearly killed woman

Christopher McCormack (Photos by Dare County Sheriff's Office)

KILL DEVIL HILLS, N.C. (WAVY) — Investigators say pushing and shoving early on in a Dare County couple’s relationship led to the woman being locked in the trunk of a car, believing she was going to be murdered.

“I’m sure she never imagined it would reach that dramatic point, but then who does?” said Sgt. J.C. Towler of the Kill Devil Hills Police Department.

On June 2, 2012, police and EMT personnel responded to the Sea Breeze Condos on Bobby Lee Trail in Kill Devil Hills after a 911 caller said a woman had been badly injured by a man, according to Assistant Chief Dana Harris. The responding officers knew the victim from previous encounters, but when they arrived at the scene, she was so badly beaten they did not recognize her.

Harris said the woman had been partying at a friend’s residence the evening of June 1, and had stayed beyond the time her boyfriend of two years, Christopher McCormack, had given her permission to be out. The woman later told investigators McCormack was an extremely jealous, controlling boyfriend, who often used a calm demeanor as a ruse before assaulting her.

Around 1 a.m., McCormack took the keys to a friend’s car to pick up his girlfriend, and when she got in the car he accused her of infidelity and said she was worthless before beating her with his fists. Harris said he continued to beat her as he drove down US 158, then stopped near the entrance of Nags Head Woods, yanked her out of the car and forced her into the trunk.

“[The victim’s] fear, already redlining, now spiked even higher: She remembered McCormack telling her that if he ever wanted to kill her he’d take her to a field in Currituck or back in Nags Head Woods,” Harris said.

When McCormack pulled her from the trunk, she tried to escape, but he dragged her to a cemetery and threw her onto a tombstone.

“He told her to get used to it because ‘in about 15 minutes, that’s where you’ll be,'” Harris said.

The woman lost consciousness several times as McCormack brutally assaulted her, repeatedly punching, kicking and stomping on her body. She later told investigators McCormack told her, “Today is the day you’re dying. Since I went this far, I have to kill you.”

After an hour or more, Harris said McCormack dragged her blood-and-dirt caked body back to the car and forced her back in the trunk. He took her out again in Nags Head Woods near a paved cul-de-sac on Lake Ridge Court and beat her again before violently sexually assaulting her. Then he put her in the back seat of the car and drove to a nearby car wash to clean the blood from the outside of the vehicle before returning to Sea Breeze Condos.

There, friends and neighbors were outraged at the woman’s condition, and McCormack told them he didn’t know what happened. Then he went to his apartment to cook a steak, Harris said. When police arrived, they had to force their way into his apartment to arrest him.

It would be more than a year and a half before the McCormack case saw its day in court. Harris said there were several reasons for the delay:

  • McCormack refused to speak about what happened and initially refused the plea agreement offered by the State, intent on going to trial. So, before the case could go to trial, it had to be built from victim and witness testimonies and forensic evidence.
  • Investigators also had to wait for the State Bureau of Investigation’s lab to process submitted evidence.
  • The unexpected death of District Attorney Frank Parrish and staff changeover at the DA’s office.
  • The original prosecuting attorney left and a new assistant district attorney had to be brought up to speed.

On the day McCormack’s trial was set to begin, he changed his mind and pleaded guilty to the most serious of the offenses charged against him — first degree sexual offense. The other charges, such as kidnapping and assault, inflicting serious bodily injury, were all dropped.

McCormack was sentenced to a minimum of 26 years in prison and a maximum of 32 years. Once released, he will have to register as a sex offender and will be monitored by satellite for the rest of his life.

The woman suffered broken bones, scarring cuts to her face, painful swelling and partial blindness in one eye. Nightmares continue to plague her, Harris said.

“Though she claimed he’d physically mistreated her throughout the relationship, she persisted in seeing his good side and held on to the hope that he would change,” Harris said.

Towler said he hopes the victim’s story will serve as a cautionary tale to others in relationships like her’s with McCormack.

“All relationships are complicated, but violent relationships even more so,” Towler said. “You’d think the victim would just say ‘he hit me, I’m out of here.’ But people’s lives and emotions get tangled up in ways that sometimes even physical violence can’t sunder. The thing we have to remember is that it’s the batterer who is in the wrong, and there is help out there.”

Anyone who experiences domestic violence can — at any time — call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224. A local resource for help is the Outer Banks Hotline at 252-473-3366.

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