June 23, 2007
PHOENIX - A woman had the word "snitch" burned into her face with a branding iron in apparent retaliation for helping police in a domestic violence case, authorities said. The brand singed into her flesh during a June 13 attack is 4 to 6 inches long and stretches across her left cheek from lip to earlobe, Mesa police Sgt. Chuck Trapani said Friday. "Obviously, they were trying to send a message to her, and they were obviously trying to humiliate her," Trapani said. Trapani declined to identify the 38-year-old woman. He said the woman had not returned calls relaying interview requests from the news media. The woman told police she was attacked by four people, including an acquaintance whose Mesa apartment she was visiting, Trapani said. That acquaintance, Preston L. Valdez, 21, told police the woman was smoking methamphetamine with him shortly before the attack. The woman said the three others who attacked her were hiding in the bedroom, Trapani said. She said they came out, knocked her unconscious, then cut and shaved large swaths of her hair and branded her, Trapani said. She was treated at a hospital and released. Two of those who attacked the woman — James H. Standridge, 34, and, Jackie L. Getz, 26 — were arrested in a domestic violence case in February 2006 after the woman answered officers' questions about them. The police investigation later led to the removal of a child from the home because drug paraphernalia was found there. Trapani said a picture of the woman shows that the word on her face had scabbed over and that "snitch" was clearly legible. He said police were searching for the branding iron. Standridge, Getz and Kibbol A. Avila, 33, were arrested on suspicion of kidnapping, aggravated assault and unlawful imprisonment. Valdez, was arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault and unlawful imprisonment. The four were being held Friday in the Maricopa County jail. Bond for Standridge and Getz was set at $270,000 each. Bond for Avila was set at $90,000, and no bond was set for Valdez. The suspects are scheduled back in court next week. The Maricopa County Public Defender's Office would not confirm whether it was representing the suspects, and declined to comment on the case Friday. The Associated Press made a request through authorities to interview the four but had received no response as of Friday evening.