THE CIRCUIT COURT OF CHESTERFIELD COUNTY Lynn S. Brice, Judge
Gregory R. Sheldon (Bain Sheldon, P.L.C., on brief), for
Anne Lloyd, Assistant Attorney General (Mark R. Herring,
Attorney General; Brittany A. Dunn-Pirio, Assistant Attorney
General, on brief), for appellee.
Present: Judges Humphreys, Petty and Chafin Argued at
ROBERT J. HUMPHREYS
a bench trial, the Circuit Court of Chesterfield County (the
"circuit court") convicted Eric William Wandemberg
("Wandemberg") of two counts of strangulation, in
violation of Code § 18.2-51.6, two counts of misdemeanor
assault and battery, in violation of Code § 18.2-57,
misdemeanor "vandalism, " in violation of Code §
18.2-137, and damaging a telephone line (hereinafter,
"interfering with a 911 phone call"),
violation of Code § 18.2-164(B). The circuit court
sentenced Wandemberg to a total of fourteen years of
incarceration, with eight years and twenty-four months
suspended. The circuit court also ordered Wandemberg to pay
restitution to the victim's mother to fix a door that he
damaged. On appeal, Wandemberg asserts the following two
assignments of error:
1. The [circuit] court erred by finding sufficient evidence
to support each strangulation conviction in the absence of
evidence of a bodily injury, as required by [Code §]
2. The [circuit] court erred by finding sufficient evidence
to support a conviction for interfering with a 911 call where
the trial court made a specific factual finding that it could
not determine who damaged the phone.
record reflects that Wandemberg and the victim were in a
volatile romantic relationship. Over the course of several
months, Wandemberg damaged property at the victim's
mother's home and committed three instances of domestic
violence, including two separate incidents of strangulation.
first domestic violence incident, as well as the first
strangulation, occurred on June 24, 2016. That day,
Wandemberg arrived at the victim's home after finishing
work. Wandemberg and the victim did not live together, but
Wandemberg occasionally stayed at her home. After arriving,
Wandemberg woke the victim and told her to get out of bed.
They then began arguing. The argument escalated, and
Wandemberg grabbed the victim by the throat, started choking
her, and threw her onto the bed. Wandemberg continued to
choke the victim with his right hand, squeezing and pressing
down on her neck. Wandemberg repeatedly threatened to kill
the victim during this first assault, which lasted at least
victim described that Wandemberg would choke her, "let
up after a couple of minutes, and then he'd go right back
at it. He was yelling at the time." The victim also
testified that she could not breathe and felt pain. She
further testified that when she attempted to call the police
with her cell phone, Wandemberg took the phone from her and
threw it against a window, causing it to break. The victim
subsequently started banging on the window, "hoping
[her] neighbor would see or come over." Wandemberg then
punched the victim in her temple with a closed fist and
started choking her again.
first attack left the victim with a "knot" on her
temple "about the size of a golf ball[.]" The
victim also suffered "bad headaches," a black eye,
and other bruising on her face. Her brother, Clinton Webber
("Webber"), explained that when he saw the victim
on June 24, 2016, she "had a goose-egg-sized knot on her
face and abrasions around the neck . . . . It looked like
somebody had choked her." The victim's mother,
Michelle Lilly ("Lilly"), also confirmed that when
she saw the victim that same day, she had "some marks on
her neck and a knot on her head."
took the victim to the hospital a few hours later. During the
hospital visit, however, the victim did not tell any medical
personnel about the strangulation because she was pregnant,
did not want the police to get involved, and "just
wanted this to go away."
interviewed about the incident by Officer Bechtold of the
Chesterfield County Police Department, Wandemberg admitted
that he and the victim got into "a tussle."
Wandemberg claimed, however, that the victim became angry
with him, threw her phone at him, and repeatedly hit his
back. Wandemberg also claimed that when the victim threw her
phone at him, the phone missed and hit the dresser, which
caused it to break. Wandemberg also explained that he pushed
the victim away with both of his hands, which caused the
victim to fall and hit her head on the bathtub. Wandemberg
alleged that he restrained the victim using both of his hands
around her neck because she continued to chase him.
Wandemberg also told Officer Bechtold that he remembered the
victim having some scratches around her neck.
second domestic violence incident occurred on December 15,
2016. That day, the victim was driving Wandemberg and
Wandemberg told the victim that he had been cheating on her.
The victim stopped the car and told Wandemberg to get out.
Wandemberg refused to exit the car and then
"backhanded" the victim and "clawed" her
face. The victim explained that her face "looked like a
cat had . . . crawled up on [her] face and clawed it."
interview with Officer Bechtold, Wandemberg admitted to
getting into an altercation with the victim while she drove
him to work. Wandemberg also admitted to backhanding the
victim in the face, which "popped her lip."
Wandemberg explained, however, that he only did so after the
victim punched him in the face multiple times.
third domestic violence incident, as well as the second
strangulation, occurred in mid-January 2017. Wandemberg and
the victim started arguing in the victim's bedroom. The
argument then moved into the bathroom where Wandemberg threw
the victim up against the wall and started choking her. She
fell to the ground, got up, and then started screaming.
Wandemberg subsequently dragged the victim from the bathroom
to the closet by her hair and neck and then grabbed the
victim by the throat, which caused the victim to fall