By: City News Service
RIVERSIDE, CA – A UC Riverside psychology professor who used various forms of manual strangulation to abuse his wife, causing major injuries, was sentenced today to nine years to life in state prison.
Michael Lamar Vanderwood, 52, was convicted Nov. 22 of torture, spousal abuse and making criminal threats, with a sentence-enhancing great bodily injury allegation, for the Aug. 23, 2014, acts of violence against the victim, identified in court documents only by her initials, E.V.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Irma Asberry imposed the upper term sentence for the torture count and the mid-term for the criminal threats conviction, but she set aside the enhancement and domestic violence convictions based on penal code provisions against duplicative sentencing when the offenses are alike.
The District Attorney’s Office spotlighted one of the more unique elements of the case, noting that Vanderwood was found guilty of torture by strangulation — without the victim suffering a complete loss of consciousness or broken bones.
According to testimony from the two-week trial, Vanderwood became incensed after his wife went to Temecula with friends and began berating her when she returned home, spewing vitriol until she retreated upstairs to the master bedroom.
“The victim heard Vanderwood coming up there,” according to a D.A.’s office statement. “Because she was `scared to death,’ she turned on the recording device of her smartphone.”
Vanderwood became physical with the woman, forcing her face-down into a pillow, then choking her one-handed before using both hands to curl his fingers around her airway, prosecutors alleged.
“She described to authorities that, when he strangled her while lying down, she could not breathe, she felt her eyes roll back into her head, and everything became `foggy,“’ the D.A.’s office stated.
“While in a separate chokehold, she described becoming dizzy, lightheaded and having blurred vision. During the assault, which lasted more than 20 minutes, Vanderwood also threatened to break bones and bent her fingers back, causing what the victim described as `tortuous’ pain.”
She was able to break free of her husband’s grip and flee outside, hiding behind trash cans in her neighbor’s yard. Vanderwood tried to find her, cruising the neighborhood in his pickup truck without luck, according to prosecutors.
The victim ultimately went to a friend’s house and called 911.
According to the prosecution, she suffered extreme bruising and swelling to the left side of her face that lasted a month. She could not consume solid food for a week due to the severity of the injuries to her throat, and she experienced memory loss, frequent headaches, impaired vision and vocal abnormalities.
Deputy District Attorney Tara Urban relied on the expert testimony of Dr. William Smock, a forensic examiner and physician for the Louisville, Kentucky, Metropolitan Police Department, to demonstrate for jurors how torture by strangulation can occur without bone fractures or blackouts.
Jurors took less than two hours to find Vanderwood guilty of all counts.
According to UCR officials, Vanderwood has worked in the Graduate School of Education since July 2001. He was placed on unpaid administrative leave when charges were filed against him two years ago.
Assistant Vice Chancellor James Grant declined to comment specifically on Vanderwood’s status, but confirmed to City News Service that anyone convicted of a felony is generally subject to summary termination.
Posted on December 29, 2016 at 4:00 pm