Former girlfriend of murder suspect describes years of physical, sexual abuse

News-DemocratMay 21, 2014 

She woke up naked, beaten and sexually assaulted on a vacant lot.

But she never called police until Carlos Garrett, the man she lived with for years, and the father of her child, was charged with murder in connection with the death of 16-year-old Nicole Willis of Centreville.

"I woke up in the park area alone, naked with scratches everywhere," the woman testified Wednesday in Garrett's murder trial. "I didn't know where I was. I didn't know where my baby was."

The News-Democrat doesn't identify sexual assault victims without their express consent.

Garrett was connected to Willis' murder in 2010, nearly a year after now-retired Illinois State Police Lt. Dave Wasmuth reopened the case. DNA found on one of Willis' pink-painted fingernail clippings taken during her autopsy linked Garrett to the murder.

The full male DNA profile was loaded into a state database, but no match was made until 2010 when Garrett's profile was loaded into an offender database as part of Garrett's conviction on a Montgomery County drug offense. He was charged with murder in 2013 after he finished serving a sentence for the drug conviction.

Garrett's former girlfriend, identified only as D.H. in court records, told the jury she suffered numerous violent attacks, including sexual assaults, at Garrett's hand.

During one of the sexual assaults, the woman said Garrett, a former prize boxer, slapped her in the face, put his hands over her mouth and said that he owned her.

"He said that he was going to teach me a lesson," she said, crying.

The couple had a daughter in September 1988. The woman testified she stayed with Garrett until 1991, when she finally left him.

Under questioning from Special Assistant State's Attorney Anna Young, the woman testified that most of the abuse occurred in the year after their daughter was born.

Willis' body was found on Oct. 4, 1989. The Cahokia High School junior's beaten and nude body was found in an empty lot at 215 N. 69th St. in Centreville. She lived about a block away.

Garrett's former girlfriend testified that Garrett came home one day, sometime after September 1988, with deep scratches to his face, eyelid and neck, but didn't say how he received the injuries.

Under cross-examination by Garrett's attorney, Thomas Q. Keefe III, the woman admitted that she didn't know exactly when she had seen the scratches.

St. Clair County Circuit Judge Zina Cruse ruled the former girlfriend could testify about the incident during Garrett's murder trial because the account was close enough to the circumstances of Willis' murder.

Keefe asked the woman why she didn't tell anyone about the physical and sexual abuse. He asked the woman why coworkers didn't confront her about the injuries, such as black eyes and fat lips, that the woman sustained as a result of the abuse.

"I didn't tell anybody," she said, "...because I loved him and a part of me wanted him, but I didn't want the violence part."

He also asked why she didn't call police until after Garrett was charged with Willis' murder.

"I didn't know (about the Willis murder)," the woman said. "I didn't know until I saw the newspaper with his name in it."

Wasmuth also took the stand Wednesday morning. Testimony is expected to continue this afternoon.