'Death in his eyes': Woman stabbed by husband questions 12-year sentence

News-DemocratFebruary 14, 2014 

Karva Pitts-Long is afraid.

The man who stabbed her twice in the back, puncturing her lung and denting the sac that surrounds her heart, will spend the next decade in prison.

But Pitts-Long spent more than two decades trying to get away from him and she said she continues to have nightmares about her attacker and dreads his release.

The man is her husband, Dwight Donnell Long, 62, of Swansea.

He stabbed her a year ago on Valentine's Day outside the Illinois Eye Surgeons building in Swansea, where she worked.

In October, Long was convicted by a jury of attempted murder, aggravated domestic battery, aggravated fleeing and attempting to elude an officer, and violating an order of protection.

St. Clair County Circuit Judge Zina Cruse recently sentenced Long to 12 years in prison. Long will have to serve 85 percent, making him eligible for parole in a little more than 10 years.

Long argued he suffered from a mental illness and should have asked for help a long time ago.

Assistant State's Attorneys Daniel Lewis and Amanda Fischer asked for 25 years in prison. Pitts-Long wanted that, too, so she could have some peace of mind.

"Everyone tells me that I should try to live these 10 years the best I can and not to worry about it, but if they saw the death in his eyes the day he tried to take my life, they would understand," Pitts-Long said.

"In court, the people argued for a 25-year sentence because we thought that was the just, appropriate sentence. Sometimes the courts agree with us, sometimes they don't, but we press on and keep fighting for victims of domestic violence like Karva," said State's Attorney Brendan Kelly.

"Every judge makes difficult decisions every day. Judge Cruse has agreed with us on very strong sentencing recommendations. In this case, the court did not agree, but imposed a sentence that was twice the minimum."

Long has filed a motion to reconsider. Judges cannot comment on cases pending before them.

"The incident occurred in a five-minute period. And those five minutes were not representative of his life, " said Cathy MacElroy, Long's attorney. "Mr. Long has been a contributing member of society, including his service in the Marines."

Pitts-Long, 44, of Belleville, said her relationship with her husband was abusive and controlling almost from the beginning. The two began dating in 1992. On their first date, Long accused Pitts-Long of flirting with the waiter, but Pitts-Long said Long, a former Marine, was so charming and apologized, so she continued to see him.

When she tried to end the relationship, Long showed up at her parents house and began cursing her parents and then cut the roof of her convertible as she watched.

"That's when the fear really started to set in," Pitts-Long said. "He said that I was never going to get away from him. And I believed that."

The couple later married and had a daughter. The abuse continued, but Pitts-Long wanted to get away.

"I knew that I could allow my daughter to come up in this kind of relationship," Pitts-Long said. She left for Georgia.

"All I wanted was to start my life over again," Pitts-Long said. "I just wanted to be free. I had to give up a lot to save my life."

One day, Long called her and said that he was in Georgia. He had ridden down on the bus and wanted me to come and get him. She did.

"I wanted him to have a relationship with his child," Pitts-Long said.

The couple returned to the metro east but separated in 2007.

Pitts-Long continued to work as a certified optometric assistant. She lived down the street from her parents, who helped her with her daughter.

At the beginning of 2012, Pitts-Long decided to broach the subject of divorce. On Super Bowl Sunday, Long showed up at her parents' house in Fairview Heights, spewing threats, she said.

"He said that he was going to kill me, that he was going to find me at work," Pitts-Long said.

And the neighbor got it all on video.

The police were called, but Pitts-Long said she was too frightened to press charges.

"I didn't want to put fuel on the fire."

But she did get an order of protection. Long was served with the complaint on Feb. 8, 2013. Pitts-Long wanted a two-year order, barring Long from having contact with her.

Things were quiet until Feb. 14, 2013.

Pitts-Long was leaving Illinois Eye Surgeons in the 3900 block of North Illinois Street after a training session. She normally worked at the Granite City or Maryville locations.

As she walked out to the parking lot, she spotted someone running toward her.

"When I figured out it was him, I shouted, 'Someone call the police! He's not supposed to be here!'" Pitts-Long said.

Pitts-Long began to run, trying to keep cars between her and Long, but he caught her and knocked her to the ground.

"I felt the knife hit my back twice, then I felt the blood," Pitts-Long said.

She was rushed to a hospital and emergency surgery was performed. She spent a month in the hospital recuperating.

Long lead police on a high-speed chase that ended in Clinton County. When police stopped him, he had slit both of his wrists. He was rushed to another hospital.

Since being released from the hospital, Pitts-Long gave up her house and moved in with her parents. The medical bills started coming. She returned to work part time in June.

Her daughter is getting counseling at school. Pitts-Long is trying to go on with her life, advising other women to leave abusive relationships, but she knows it always isn't that easy.

"I know that it only gets worse. That kind of love isn't love. It's control," Pitts-Long said. "They ask them to speak out. They ask, 'Why did you stay so long?' Why? Because we aren't protected. There truly is no way to be safe."

Where to get help

There are resources available to help people in abusive relationships. Call the Violence Prevention Center of Southwestern Illinois in Belleville, 236-2531.

Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at bhundsdorfer@bnd.com or 618-239-2570.

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