Florida Mother: ‘I Could Have Been' Marissa Alexander
Domestic violence victim speaks out on behalf of woman who shares same abuser
The only real difference between Chartrissia Anderson’s story and Marissa Alexander’s story is the presence of a firearm in the latter.
Both of them are mothers in their thirties. Both have lived in Jacksonville, Fla. Both have had children with a man named Rico Gray. And both were victims of his abuse.
Anderson, whose daughter with Gray is now 9-years-old, knew nothing about the similarities she shared with Alexander until recently. She’s known Gray for 12 years.
“I knew that (Gray and Alexander) were together and they were married, but I never knew about the violence that took place within the relationship,” said Anderson, in an exclusive interview with Loop 21.
The 36-year-old says she only knew about the abuse she alleges she endured at Gray’s hands in 2006. Anderson says Gray punched her in the face for confronting him about his relationship with another woman with whom he has a child.
When she called the police, she learned of the lengths Gray might go to avoid trouble with the law.
“Once he realized that the call had went through, he went into the kitchen and pulled out a fork,” Anderson recalled. “His son was there…in the tub. (Gray) started stabbing himself in the arm with the fork. He told his son that when the police get here, tell them that I stabbed him.”
Loop 21 has yet to obtain a police report of the incident, but has tracked down a case docket, which confirms the date of the incident, Gray’s involvement, his guilty plea, and his having received probation.
Loop 21 also reached out to Gray, who has turned down requests for interviews without compensation.
Anderson said police did not believe Gray’s story, although they initially removed her from their home and placed her in the back of a squad car. Soon after the incident, a judge awarded her an order of “no contact” with him. She acknowledges later changing that order to a “non-violent” injunction. That allowed more seamless visitation with their daughter.
Years later, Anderson said Gray informed her about Alexander’s use of a gun against him in 2010.
“He called me and told me that she was arrested for shooting in the house,” Anderson said. “He just wanted to let me know before anybody else told me. He didn’t tell me why he wanted to let me know.”
Anderson says she was initially upset at the news of Alexander’s actions, but not because Gray had physically abused her. Anderson, again, knew nothing of his abusive history with Alexander.
“My initial thing was… I was upset because my child was supposed to be there that weekend,” Anderson said. “All I knew was that a gun was involved, it was shot and my child would have been in the house.”
“Certain things you just don’t do in the presence of a child,” Anderson added.
It was Anderson’s own research that allowed her to learn what really preceded Alexander’s 2010 incident. Through online county court records, Anderson discovered a 2009 incident with Alexander, in which Gray physically abused her, plead guilty to it and received probation for it.
It was just like her case three years earlier.
“I kind of started putting two and two together. (He) beat her. That’s why she was in the hospital. That’s why (he) got arrested,” Anderson said.
Alexander, 31, endured strangulation, beatings, and hospitalization, including an incident causing the premature birth of her youngest child, the one with Gray.
She was later found guilty on three counts of assault with a deadly weapon, for using a gun to defend herself against Gray, who has a well-documented history of domestic violence.
On Thursday, a judge denied a retrial motion in Alexander’s “Stand Your Ground” case. The self-defense claim, which she and her attorney believed was backed up by Gray’s history, was not convincing to a jury in March. Next week, Alexander will be sentenced to a mandatory minimum 20 years in prison, in a case where no one was injured.
Alexander maintains she was not aiming for Gray. She fired the gun as a warning, her attorney said. Gray had threatened to kill her. She felt she was well within her right to stand her ground.
Leading up to Thursday’s hearing, Anderson was compelled by her own convictions to speak out.
“It could have been me and I would have wanted someone to step in on my behalf,” she said. “I was just convicted do the right thing, and speak out in reference to how (Gray) is and the things he has done in the past.”
Although it’s unclear if Anderson’s outspokenness will help win Alexander’s freedom somewhere down the line, she’s convinced women who are abused need to hear these stories.
“If someone just even acts like they are going to do any type of harm to you, just leave it alone,” Anderson said. “Just because they say, ‘I’m not going to do it anymore. I’m not going to do it at all,’ you really have to dig deep into a person’s past.”
Today, Anderson lives with her two children, including her daughter with Gray, and works as a certified nursing assistant. She said she hasn’t had contact with Gray since a few days after the trial for his abuse of her. Their daughter has infrequent contact with him, she said.
“I’ve always wanted my daughter to be with her father,” Anderson said. “You can’t use your children as an excuse to say, ‘Okay, he’s beating on me, but I want him to be with his child.’ You have to get out for your safety as well as your children.”
Gray has custody of his daughter with Alexander. Her ex-husband, Lincoln Alexander, raises her other two children. Lincoln has been instrumental in publicizing Marissa’s case.
Although unsuccessful in Marissa’s hearing this week, Anderson joined groups calling attention to the harshness of her sentence.
Contact Loop 21 staff writer Aaron Morrison at 347-855-3140 or firstname.lastname@example.org.