PHOENIX – One of four people arrested on suspicion of branding a woman's face with the word "snitch" said Thursday that the victim was awake and screamed as her flesh was burned from lip to earlobe.
Kibbol A. Avila, 33, said in a jailhouse interview with The Associated Press that he sat next to the woman during the June 13 attack in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa. Police have not released the 38-year-old woman's identity.
Avila described the attack as revenge for help the woman gave police in a 2006 domestic violence case involving two of his friends, James H. Standridge, 34, and Jackie L. Getz, 26. The two were arrested after she gave the help, and a child was removed from their home.
The three suspects were waiting in a bedroom June 13 when the woman went to the house of Preston Valdez, 21, Avila said. Valdez had called Standridge to tell him the woman would be there.
The woman was sitting on the couch when Standridge came out of the bedroom, Avila said: "Her eyes got big when she saw him."
Standridge punched the woman, grabbed a pair of scissors and cut her hair as tears streamed down her face, Avila said. Standridge told her: "'You ain't going to get hurt, you ain't going to get killed, if you just listen to what we're telling you and don't jerk around,'" Avila said.
The branding occurred afterward in a car, Avila said. "I heard her saying, 'Aaah!' just screaming, and he had something in his hand, and it smelled like skin," Avila said.
Avila didn't think anyone in the car knew Standridge had the branding iron, and when he realized what was happening, he got out, he said. "My mind just went blank. I didn't know what to do," he said.
The woman ran out the open door, and no one followed her, he said. Avila said that he didn't get a good look at the woman's face, but that police later showed him a photograph.
"It's bad," he said. "I didn't really stare at it. I just looked at it, looked up and pushed it away. I didn't want to see it."
Avila said he feels guilty for being there when it happened.
"I feel bad because now she has to live with that on her face," he said. "It wasn't right. She was bad, but come on now, branding and burning someone's face?"
Avila, Standridge and Getz were arrested on suspicion of kidnapping, aggravated assault and unlawful imprisonment. Valdez was arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault and unlawful imprisonment.
The defendants are scheduled for court hearings Friday. Standridge, Getz and Valdez declined requests to be interviewed. They had not yet been assigned lawyers by the Maricopa County public defender's office.