Accused said he was forced to fight back
© File photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram
Jeffrey Donald Heale testified in his own defence at provincial court in St. John's Tuesday. He told the court he did not initiate any physical contact with two women, who are accusing him of attacking them last month.
Jeffrey Donald Heale admits going to see two women last month at their house to clear up a debt, but says they were the ones who initiated a vicious attack on him and his girlfriend.
He was forced to fight back, he said, for protection.
“I had no other choice but to engage in (a physical altercation with them),” Heale testified Tuesday afternoon in his trial at provincial court in St. John’s.
“(We) were getting hurt.”
The 30-year-old is accused of forcing his way into a house on Torngat Crescent in the Cowan Heights area St. John’s Nov. 9. Once inside, he allegedly attacked the two women who lived there, using bats.
He’s charged with unlawful entry into a house with intent to commit a crime, assault and two counts of assault with a weapon.
He also faces a charge of breaching a conditional sentence, imposed last year which ordered him to keep the peace and be of good behaviour.
He was given a two-years-less-a-day conditional sentence in April 2009 after pleading guilty to charges of trafficking in ecstasy.
But he claims his most recent run-in with the law was not his fault and that the whole incident was brought on by Vanessa Gbagbl and Jennifer Noseworthy, who came to the door with baseball bats.
“I thought I was done,” he told the court of the beating he took from the women. “I’ve never seen two women with baseball bats like that.”
Heale said earlier that night, he and his girlfriend, Vanessa Robson, were on their way to see a business associate when he noticed Robson was exchanging text messages with Gbagbl, who owed Heale more than $700 for stage outfits she used while working as a dancer at Sirens club in downtown St. John’s.
Since Heale was in a hurry to meet his conditional sentence he said they decided to drive over to see Gbagbl.
When they pulled into the driveway, he said, he stopped to tie his shoe, while Robson walked to the front door.
“When I looked up, I see Miss Robson and Miss Gbagbl were on the step,” Heale said. “Gbagbl was attacking her with a bat. … I heard Miss Noseworthy say ‘Come on and get it, bitch.’”
That’s when, Heale said, he tackled Gbagbl and two of them ended up inside the house. Robson was still outside.
He said Noseworthy struck him in the head with a bat, which prompted him to tackle her on the stairs and hit her in the face with his hand.
“I hit her with as much force to disarm her,” he said. “Her body went limp.”
Then, he said, Gbagbl hit him from behind with a bat. When he turned, he said he heard the door slam.
“Miss Gbagbl latches the door and says, ‘Where’s your bitch now?’” Heale said. “She struck me with the bat again. I covered my head.
“I’m hit about 15 times with a bat.”
He said he pushed Gbagbl aside and unlocked the door. Robson came in and got into a scuffle with Gbagbl, while he tried to disarm Noseworthy.
At that point, he said, he heard Robson scream “like I’ve never heard her scream before.” As he was trying to pry Gbagbl off Robson, he said, Noseworthy hit him over the head with the bat again.
This time the bat cracked, leaving a pointed piece in Noseworthy’s hand.
That when, he said, he again hit Noseworthy in the face with his hand.
“I cracked her pretty hard,” he said.
“I thought I was going to be stabbed. I had to hit her in self defence.”
He said he then grabbed his girlfriend and the two left.
Heale suffered lacerations to his head and bruising to his upper body, which were treated at hospital that night.
He lied to doctors about what happened that night because, he said, he didn’t want the police involved.
“I don’t trust the police,” he said. “I’ve had problems with them in the past.”
Heale has an eight-page criminal record, which includes a charge of obstructing justice.
When Simmonds asked him why the judge should believe him, Heale replied, “I never held back anything. … I have no reason to lie.”
Heale’s version of events that night was in stark contrast to that of the women, who testified earlier in the trial.
Noseworthy and Gbagbl told the court they had baseball bats for protection after Heale and his girlfriend threatened them over the phone and said they were coming over.
They said Heale lunged into the house and attacked both of them. Noseworthy said Heale hit her so hard, she lost consciousness a number of times.
Both said they were frightened by Heale.
However, on Tuesday, Heale’s lawyer Bob Simmonds recalled Noseworthy to the stand. She admitted she had been at suite at Winterhome Heritage Inn with Heale about a month before the incident.
She told the court Heale was pursuing her and that he wanted to talk about her relationship with her ex-boyfriend.
“I was there all of 30 minutes and left,” she said.
When asked why she agreed to go there with him, she replied, “Foolishness. I actually have no smart answer for that.”
Crown prosecutor Nick Westera is expected to cross-examine Heale today.