BATH, Maine — A Bath man who stabbed his former girlfriend repeatedly in the neck and almost killed her will spend at least 6½ years in prison for what a Superior Court justice said Thursday was one of the most severe domestic violence cases he has seen.
The victim, who gave an emotional 30-minute statement during the sentencing hearing in Sagadahoc County Superior Court, called 28-year-old Matthew Wycoff’s sentence “insulting.”
Superior Court Justice William Horton sentenced Wycoff to 15 years in prison with all but 6½ years suspended, followed by six years of probation with numerous restrictions. Wycoff pleaded guilty to Class A elevated aggravated assault earlier this year.
“No amount of prison time can restore to [the victim] what was taken,” said Horton in Sagadahoc County Superior Court. “The assault itself can only be characterized as a savage attack. This is one of the most serious domestic violence cases that there is and one of the more severe forms that I’ve seen.”
A long night of drinking in celebration of the woman’s birthday preceded the attack at about 6:50 a.m. Feb. 20, according to Assistant Sagadahoc County District Attorney Patricia Mador.
Though there was some disagreement between Wycoff, his victim and a witness about exactly what happened — Wycoff says she picked up the knife first — but Wycoff doesn’t deny that he tackled her and stabbed her several times in the neck and shoulder with such force that it broke the blade on the steak knife he used.
According to Mador, the knife punctured the woman’s jugular vein twice. She was taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland where she underwent surgery to save her life while Wycoff fled from the Washington Street apartment. He was arrested less than an hour later at a gas station in Topsham.
The victim told the court that it will take her and her children years to rebound from the effects of the attack. She objected to a plea agreement struck in the case, in which Wycoff pleaded guilty to elevated aggravated assault and agreed to a cap on his sentence of 15 years with all but eight years suspended. The maximum possible sentence for the charge is 30 years in prison.
“I am not comfortable with up to eight years,” said the victim. “My life is worth more than that. My children’s integrity and innocence is worth more than that. I think ‘up to eight years’ is insulting. … Please give me enough time to rebuild, save up and leave.”
The woman told the court that just bringing herself to the hearing was a major challenge, partly because she feared it would give Wycoff some satisfaction. Wycoff, dressed in a dark suit but shackled at the hands and ankles at the defense table, shook his head “no” in response.
Later in the hearing, Wycoff, who has a 2-year-old son, said he is ashamed of his “absolutely tragic” actions.
“The morning of Feb. 20 is the most regrettable morning of my life, but I take responsibility for the whole thing,” he said. “I’m not just sorry because I’m in jail, or because I’ve lost custody of my son, or that I’ve lost everything I’ve ever worked for or anything that I should. I’m truly sorry because I hurt someone I care about deeply who I never intended on hurting.”
Wycoff, according to his defense attorney, William Baghdoyan of Augusta, was a high-honor student, president of his high school class, multiple-sport athlete and a premedical student for two semesters at the University of Maine. In recent years, Wycoff has worked as a finish carpenter. Wycoff blamed the attack on his excessive drinking.
“The only thing that can truly personify my remorse is to change,” he said. “I do realize that forgiveness required right action and dedication. I’m truly committed to that now and for the rest of my days.”
In deciding on his sentence, Horton said Wycoff’s remorse, along with the fact he pleaded guilty to the crime, were major mitigating factors. However, the savagery of the attack, its impact on the victim’s life and Wycoff’s substance abuse problem were what pushed Horton toward the 15-year sentence.
“I recognize that this sentence is less than [the victim] would be asking me to impose, and I’m sure Mr. Wycoff and his family view it as much harsher than the circumstances deserve,” said Horton. “It reflects my attempt to weigh the facts I’ve acquired to come up with a sentence that addresses the various codes of the criminal justice system.”
Conditions of Wycoff’s release after he has served his prison time include no contact with his victim, no use of intoxicants, submittal to random search and testing, and participation in a domestic violence monitoring program by the court system. As a convicted felon, he also will not be allowed to possess weapons.
The victim said her appearance in court Thursday was a struggle.
“I was torn to come here today but I refuse not to be an example to my children that you fight, you stand up and you do your part. If you don’t, then don’t complain,” she said. “You don’t just throw in the towel because it’s uncomfortable.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story contained an error. According to Assistant Sagadahoc County District Attorney Patricia Mador the knife punctured the woman’s jugular vein twice, not her aorta.