Tuesday, February 7, 2023
Feb. 7, 2023

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Ex-Sheriff’s sergeant strangled girlfriend, threatened her with machete, charges say

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TACOMA — A former Pierce County sheriff’s sergeant convicted last month of felony harassment is once again facing criminal charges, this time for a violent incident involving his girlfriend at their Puyallup home.

Robert Glen Carpenter was charged Tuesday in Pierce County Superior Court with first-degree kidnapping, three counts of second-degree assault and felony harassment for a domestic-violence incident that allegedly involved the defendant strangling his girlfriend to near unconsciousness and threatening her with a machete after he came home drunk. If he is convicted of his most serious charge, first-degree kidnapping, he faces a maximum possible sentence of life in prison.

A SWAT team served a warrant at Carpenter’s residence Monday after his girlfriend called 911 early that morning to report the incident, a Pierce County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson told The News Tribune. Deputies contacted the woman and established probable cause to make an arrest.

According to charging documents, Carpenter came home at about 3:30 a.m. Monday, woke his girlfriend and began a frightening, hours-long assault on her that included him laughing while he put his knee into her chest and choked her with both hands. Records state that the defendant sharpened a machete in front of the victim while telling her he would cut her head off and chop her into pieces. A search of the home by law enforcement later found a cut in the wall of a guest bedroom that looked like it could have been made by the blade.

Pleas of not guilty were entered on Carpenter’s behalf at his arraignment Tuesday afternoon. Court Commissioner Philip Thornton set bail at $500,000. The defendant was ordered to have no contact with the victim or her two youngest children.

During the proceeding, deputy prosecuting attorney Coreen Schnepf requested $1 million bail, calling Carpenter’s alleged behavior “very concerning.” Schnepf said the defendant threatened to harm the victim’s children during the assault if she called police, and the attorney noted that the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office would likely add a witness intimidation charge.

The victim also spoke during the arraignment, telling the court that she agreed with the higher bail. She said Carpenter told her he would kill her children if she went to the police, then said he only wanted to kill her, and that if he let her go, he wouldn’t get another chance.

“He fed off my fear that night,” the woman said. “And I refuse to live in fear anymore.”

Schnepf also brought up Carpenter’s criminal history. Last month, Carpenter was sentenced to time served after he pleaded guilty to felony harassment in a case stemming from a stabbing incident in Tacoma in 2018. That incident led to Carpenter being fired after a 25-year career at the Sheriff’s Department, which, according to court documents, included roles as a defensive tactics, SWAT tactics and firearms instructor.

While that case was pending, Carpenter was ordered by the court not to consume alcohol. Schnepf said Carpenter relapsed “multiple times” while he was on alcohol monitoring. She said the defendant has gone through extensive treatment, but she said he stopped attending treatment for alcohol dependency since the conclusion of his last case, and she said he is still a risk to the community.

The defendant’s attorney, Bryan Hershman, disputed that and said he has continued to attend alcohol-dependency treatment at least weekly despite the fact that he is no longer under a court order to do so. He asked that Carpenter be released on his personal recognizance or be held on $50,000 bail or less.

In charging documents, prosecutors wrote that the victim told police that Carpenter recently went to a counseling appointment, but she said he relapsed on drinking just before his trial was set to begin in his other case, and again in November on the victim’s one year anniversary of being sober.

According to the declaration for determination of probable cause, investigators did not find any firearms in Carpenter’s home when it was searched, but they did recover assorted ammunition, a machete, two pocket knives and several ammo magazines.

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