Man who assaulted pregnant girlfriend sentenced to 120-day treatment program
A 21-year-old Gainesville man who struck his pregnant girlfriend in the face with a coffee mug, fracturing her nose and causing a gash that required 13 stitches, will spend the next four months in a drug treatment program within the Missouri Department of Corrections.
Zack Burris, who had pleaded guilty to second-degree domestic assault in November 2019, appeared for a sentencing hearing before Circuit Judge Craig Carter Jan. 8.
Before Carter called Burris’ case, he reviewed a sentencing advisory report prepared by the Missouri Division of probation and parole.
He then asked Ozark County Prosecuting Attorney John Garrabrant and public defender Kate Welborn if they had any additional evidence or argument to add before he rendered his verdict.
Prosecution and defense arguments
Garrabrant entered two photos into evidence showing the victim’s bruised and swollen face shortly after the assault.
“This was an unprovoked attack. Mr. Burris has had four arrests in the past for violent behavior against family members - the same people who are in the courtroom today for him, his mother and grandfather,” Garrabrant told the judge. “He’s been addicted to methamphetamine since he was 13. He’s a high school dropout. He doesn’t have a GED. He is unemployed, and the violence shown here now and in the past is vile. If he wants to seek out help, there are available tools in the Missouri Department of Corrections for him to do that.”
Garrabrant told the judge that the victim of the assault was in the courtroom and that she believed Burris needed treatment instead of incarceration.
“Due to the wishes of the victim, I’ve amended this down to a class D felony,” Garrabrant said. “But that’s the most I’m willing to do.”
He asked the judge to sentence Burris to seven years in prison, the harshest sentence available for a class D felony.
Welborn then addressed the court, arguing that she believed Burris would benefit more from a 120-day drug treatment program than a straight seven-year prison sentence.
“There are available options in the Department of Corrections if he wants to reach out for them, but I think having the structure of the [institutional drug treatment program] is important. That way he has a goal. He has to do it,” Welborn said. “He’s a young man. He spent the holidays in jail. He missed his daughter’s birth. He actually hasn’t seen her in person until he saw her today in the courtroom. He has new motivation now, and it’s wrapped up in a blanket behind me. We’ve had the discussion that now it’s time for him to grow up.”
Welborn added that the mother of Burris’ child, along with his mother and grandfather, were all present in support of the defendant.
“They’ve seen Zack when he’s sober. They’ve seen the good side. Here in the black and white of the [sentencing advisory report], we see the bad side, but there is a good side,” Welborn said. “And they think the good outweighs the bad – even though, admittedly, when it’s bad, it’s really bad.”
Family addresses the court
Although the victim of the assault said she did not wish to address the judge, Buriss’ grandfather and mother both asked to speak to the judge before he sentenced the defendant.
“Most people I know make mistakes. He’s a young man, and I think he should be given a second chance,” his grandfather said. “I’d ask the court to have mercy on him.”
The defendant’s mother then addressed the court.
“I tried to be a mom and dad to him when he was growing up,” she said. “He’s a good kid and deserves a second chance. If the court could just have mercy on him, that would be amazing.”
“Your background worries the hell out of me,” Carter told Burris. “This is not the first woman you’ve beat up. You’ve been arrested and stuck in jail twice for this before – and now, again, for hitting your pregnant girlfriend with a coffee mug in the face.”
Carter acknowledged that the two prior incidents he was referencing were eventually dismissed by Howell County Court, “and we don’t know why,” Carter said.
Burris’ mother spoke up and said the two incidents involved her.
Carter referred to the allegations against Burris as “barbaric” and told the defendant he had a serious fear that Burris’ violent behavior was not going to stop.
“In the SAR, it says you began using meth at an age of 13. Looks like he kind of raised himself,” he said, glancing at Burris’ mother. “Because he has no prior convictions and because he has basically raised himself, I’m going to be more lenient than I probably should.”
Carter sentenced to Burris to seven years in prison under Missouri Revised Statute 559.115, which allows him to complete a 120-day institutional drug treatment program in prison. Burris will then be eligible for release. The seven-year sentence will serve as a “backup” and can be executed if Burris violates his probation in any way.
“Bless you,” Burris told the judge.
“Don’t bless me. Bless yourself. This is all against my better judgment. It probably isn’t just… to be this lenient,” he told the defendant. “You better take advantage of this and not appear in this or any other court. If I see you in court ever again I’m going to max you out, and you’ll be gone for a very long time.”
The allegations of assault
According to the probable cause statement in the case, Ozark County Sheriff’s Deputy Cpl. Curtis Dobbs arrived at a residence on Runway Loop in Gainesville on Aug. 2, 2019, and discovered a woman with severe lacerations and contusions on her face.
Medical personnel were dispatched to the scene, and the woman was transported by ambulance to Baxter Regional Medical Center in Mountain Home, Arkansas, for treatment.
Before being transported, the woman told officers Burris had assaulted her and she was unaware of where he was at the time.
A family member escorted the deputies to the victim’s apartment, where officers discovered several broken and jagged pieces of what appeared to be porcelain. They also reported blood in several areas between a mattress and the front door of the apartment.
Dobbs said he was familiar with the suspect and located him at another residence in the mobile home park. Burris was arrested on suspicion of assault.
When Dobbs interviewed Burris the next day, he had several small lacerations on his right hand and forearm. Burris allegedly admitted striking the victim in the face with a coffee mug and told the officer he had sustained the injuries during the alleged assault.
During an interview with the victim, she said she had been in a romantic relationship with Burris and was pregnant with his child. She said she was resting in her apartment when Burris came in and lay on the bed next to her. The victim said when she refused his sexual overtures, Burris became angry and went into the kitchen.
She said she opened her eyes and then was struck with something. She said she found herself halfway off the bed and got up and made her way to the front door and then fled to a neighboring residence for help.
The victim sustained a 3-inch gash to her face that required 13 stitches. She also had scratches on the cornea of her eye, a fractured nose with a small portion of her nose missing, a large, swollen discolored area on her forehead, and a concussion leading to bleeding in her brain cavity, according to the records.