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Man Convicted Of Battery Despite Wife’s Testimony Prosecutor Says Victim Tried To Protect Abuser

Thu., March 27, 1997

A Spokane man who nearly beat his wife to death was taken away in handcuffs Wednesday - despite the victim’s insistence that he was innocent.

A Kootenai County jury of seven men and five women took only an hour and a half to decide that James Loss, 47, was guilty of aggravated battery. They came to that conclusion even after Loss’ wife of 15 years testified that her husband hadn’t beaten her.

Jerrene Loss, 49, said instead that she received the near-fatal head wound from accidentally falling down while boating with her husband on Lake Coeur d’Alene.

“Jerri Loss is a double victim here,” said Rick Baughman, the Kootenai County deputy prosecutor who tried the case. “She had to endure this beating and she’s stuck on this guy emotionally.”

Labeled a classic example of how domestic abusers control their victims, the trial took a troubling twist from the beginning.

“This case was tougher than a murder case because in a murder case you don’t have the victim testify against you,” the prosecutor said.

Those who deal with domestic violence say it is not unusual for victims to change their stories and try to protect those who abuse them. But often when that happens, prosecutors are forced to drop the criminal charges against the batterer.

Not this time.

Kootenai County prosecutors said they received phone calls and letters from Jerrene Loss’ family and friends begging them not to drop this case for her safety.

“I would much rather go to trial on this case for aggravated battery than for murder this coming summer,” Baughman said.

On the night of June 14, a frantic call from Jerrene Loss crackled over the radio waves. “Help me, help me. He’s hurting me. He’s killing me in the middle of Lake Coeur d’Alene,” one boater testified he heard.

When Kootenai County sheriff’s deputies found Loss’ boat floating in the dark, they discovered blood-soaked towels, clots of hair and blood smeared throughout the vessel.

Jerrene Loss lay in a berth, her face swollen, her nose bleeding and her body bruised. Doctors testified she would have died if she had not been brought in. They had to cut open her head to reduce the pressure on her swelling brain.

At first, Jerrene Loss told police that her husband had purposely kicked her in the nose, beaten her and thrown her down stairs on the boat after an argument over money.

In September, James Loss even pleaded guilty to the charge.

But soon after that, the couple got back together and Jerrene Loss began claiming that she made up the whole story.

During the six-day trial, she testified that her husband had accidentally kicked her in the nose when she moved her face in the way of his foot. She said she then fell down on the floor and fell down some stairs.

Jerrene Loss also testified that she had revealed to her husband that night that she had purposely suffocated her infant son 28 years ago. She insisted that she made up the story about the beating because she was afraid her husband might turn her in to police.

But Baughman used Jerrene’s own statements to police, along with pictures of the blood spattered boat to contradict her testimony.

Baughman pointed out to the woman that an autopsy had been performed on her dead child and it was determined to have died from sudden infant death syndrome.

Loss’ children also testified that they watched the couple come up with different versions of the story after they had a chance to look over the evidence, Baughman said.

Husband and wife sat stone-faced as the guilty verdict was read Wednesday.

In the back of the courtroom, James Loss’ daughter from a previous marriage broke into tears of joy. Chanin Crewdson said she and her mother - now divorced from Loss - also suffered years of abuse at his hands.

“There is justice,” said Caroline Weldon, Loss’ former wife. But, “She’s not ever going to be safe with him.”

Prosecutor Baughman asked the judge to lock James Loss in jail until his April 30 sentencing hearing.

Baughman said he’d been told by friends and relatives of the couple that James Loss had threatened to kill himself before doing time in jail and that Jerrene Loss had indicated she might do the same. The couple also had hinted they might leave the country, Baughman said.

Haman ordered Loss to be held in the Kootenai County Jail on $100,000 bail. However, when Loss first was arrested he was given the same bail and was able to post it within a matter of days.

“I did tell the truth,” Jerrene Loss insisted after they took her husband away. “Jim is not guilty and I’ll fight until my dying breath to get him out.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

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