Metro-East News

‘He looked me in the face and told me I was going to die’: Woman faces her past a year after beating

From addict, domestic violence victim and criminal to advocate

Alicia Rhodes talks about transforming her life and becoming an advocate after surviving heroin addiction, domestic abuse and getting in trouble with the law.
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Alicia Rhodes talks about transforming her life and becoming an advocate after surviving heroin addiction, domestic abuse and getting in trouble with the law.

Alicia Rhodes still has a dent in the bone under her left eye more than a year after her then-boyfriend beat her. Her ears bled and she lost much of her hearing for two months.

“It took time for that to come back,” Rhodes said.

Last week, her ex-boyfriend, Mark A. Marti, 42, was sentenced to three years in prison on charges he beat, choked and detained Rhodes against her will in March 2016.

The beating set off a year of misfortune for Rhodes that culminated in her spending nine months in prison and facing post-traumatic stress caused by the violence.

Rhodes called 911 at about 11 p.m. March 6, 2016.

“I couldn’t believe that she was conscious,” Cahokia Police Lt. Dennis Plew told the News-Democrat at the time.

Mark Marti
Mark Marti Provided

Marti was charged with one count of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated domestic battery and unlawful restraint.

Rhodes spent five days in Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.

The first-degree murder charge was dismissed as part of a plea deal, according to court records. Marti’s lawyer, Justin Whitton, asked for probation. St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly said prosecutors asked for seven years. Judge Randall Kelley sentenced Marti to three years on the remaining charges.

“By pleading open on these charges, Mr. Marti took responsibility for his actions,” Whitton said in an email. “The judge deemed a prison sentence to be the penalty for his offenses.”

Some of Rhodes’ injuries were called into question because she was involved in a serious motorcycle accident two days prior to the beating, Whitton said. She also admitted another person struck her in the face on the same day of the beating, a person who was never charged, according to Whitton.

But Rhodes, 30, says she has no doubt what caused her injuries.

He looked me in the face and told me I was going to die.

Alicia Rhodes

“He (Marti) looked me in the face and told me I was going to die,” Rhodes said. “I tried to block it out like it never happened, but that didn’t work very well.”

Rhodes said she continued on a downward spiral after the beating. She was addicted to heroin. She said she tried to hide all of her emotions and post-traumatic stress behind a tough facade. She got in trouble with the law.

“I had no idea what she was going through,” said Josh Armstrong, a friend of Rhodes at the time and now her fiance. “She hid it all so well.”

She was charged in Madison County just weeks after the beating with aggravated battery of a disabled person and charged again just months later with being a felon in possession of a firearm. She said she battered an ex-boyfriend who had a disability caused by a gunshot to the chest. She fled to Missouri to try to escape the law and used drugs to numb the pain.

“Substance abuse was my blanket,” Rhodes said. “It was my way of covering it all up, not having to think about it.”

It’s fairly common for domestic violence to accompany substance abuse, says Vickie Smith, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

“Sometimes it occurs because the victim is trying to look at various ways to try to improve the situation,” Smith said. “Sometimes the abuser will force the victim into using substances. Sometimes it’s self-medication to get through it.”

It starts with a loud voice, them trying to make you feel inferior.

Alicia Rhodes

One night at a bar in Granite City, Rhodes’ actions finally caught up with her. Rhodes’ mother heard she was at the bar and called the police. Rhodes was arrested on a warrant. Police found a firearm in her backpack, leading to the possession charge.

Rhodes spent nine months in prison for her offenses. More than a year later, she said she is thankful to her mother for making the decision to call police.

“She saved my life when she turned me in,” Rhodes said. “I was more relieved than anything, not to be on the run any more, not trying to hide.”

Rhodes said she attended a substance abuse program three hours a day, five days a week while in prison. She led discussions on domestic violence with other women in the Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln. Rhodes said domestic violence, criminal activity and substance abuse often “go hand-in-hand” as a vicious cycle.

060517snDomesticAbuse
Alicia Rhodes of Edwardsville talks about becoming an advocate after surviving heroin addiction, domestic abuse and a life as a criminal. Steve Nagy snagy@bnd.com

Domestic violence can affect anyone, with or without a criminal background, according to Smith, the director at Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

“Domestic violence happens across our social strata,” Smith said. “It happens in families that are nice, upstanding citizens, in people who hold posts of authority, who have power in a community. People can be victims or abusers and not break any other laws.”

More than a year later, Rhodes says she is grateful every day for her supportive fiance, though she lost custody of her two young children. She says she’s living in “a nice house” and is trying to prove she is fit to see her children after serving time for her offenses.

“I have to fight to show that (Marti) is not the type of person I have in my life any more,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes says she continues to fight to stay clean, an effort supported by her fiance, who also dealt with substance abuse.

It starts with a loud voice, them trying to make you feel inferior.

Alicia Rhodes

Meantime, Rhodes says she plans to see a counselor at Chestnut Health Systems, an addiction and mental health treatment center in Granite City, to help her cope with her post-traumatic stress. She takes medication for PTSD.

When asked what she would tell other victims of domestic violence, Rhodes said she would warn them to avoid abusers “in any way possible.”

“It starts with a loud voice, them trying to make you feel inferior,” Rhodes said. “If somebody does that to you, walk away, because if somebody can’t stand beside you and make you feel like you’re equal, there’s no point in even trying with them.”

Rhodes said she hopes to encourage victims of domestic violence to speak out and share their stories.

Smith said women should also consider attending support groups, to help them “really understand” what domestic violence is.

“There are little signs we don’t really notice that tend to take over our life until we’re caught up,” Smith said. “As an outside observer or a person caught up, you don’t identify that kind of stuff. It’s covert and subtle. It builds up over time.”

Rhodes says she mainly focuses on one thing in helping herself get her life back on track.

“You have to learn to forgive yourself,” Rhodes said. “And to forgive everybody else.”

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