Down the road, there will be time to discuss bi-polar disorder and the role it played in turning former Seahawks offensive lineman Chad Wheeler nearly homicidal, and who and what was responsible for allowing it to happen.
But Monday morning, Wheeler’s victim, who will not be named here in an attempt to make her life slightly less miserable, had her first forum in King County Superior Court.
She was at the Maleng Regional Justice Center courtroom in Kent for the arraignment of Wheeler, a four-year NFL veteran and restricted free agent who was waived by the Seahawks five days after the horrific beating he allegedly administered Jan. 22 at their Kent apartment.
He pleaded not guilty to first-degree domestic violence assault (a Class A felony); domestic violence unlawful imprisonment (a Class C felony); and resisting arrest (a misdemeanor).
Keep in mind that both parties called it a “manic episode” from a failure to take his medications. He has also has already apologized on Twitter. The not-guilty plea is often used by defense attorneys to buy time to pursue more information and, in this case, to explore treatment options.
Appearing with a broken left arm resting in a sling, she wrote a statement about the incident that was read aloud by Wendy Ross, a criminal advocate supervisor with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office domestic violence division.
Here is the victim’s entire statement, with a warning that it is disturbing:
As you consider Chad’s custody status, I want you to know that I believe that as long as he is out of custody, I am not safe. When Chad attacked me, he first sat on top of me, choked me, stuffed his fingers down my throat and covered my nose & mouth with his hands. I begged him to stop. When I tried to get away, he broke and dislocated my arm. When I came to, he strangled me again, rendering me unconscious a second time. When I awoke a second time — covered in my own blood — he said, “Wow, you’re alive.”
When I locked myself in the bathroom to call the police, I could hear him speaking coolly to his father over the phone. Chad never called the police even though he thought I was dead.
Now, Chad is out of custody staying in a hotel watching this play out on social media. This current status places my safety at risk, and I do not believe that a protective order or a condition of release is sufficient to keep me safe.
My first request is that you hold Chad in custody in the King County jail and that he is not released. If the Court will not do this, then I ask that he be required to serve his time on closely monitored (24/7) home detention at his family home in Los Angeles. I object to him serving his time in Seattle, which places me at risk. I also object to him serving his time essentially on vacation in Hawaii.
He and I were supposed to be on vacation together at that location. Instead, I am here, undergoing medical treatment, handling a barrage of attention and abuse on social media, and dealing with the ramifications of this horrific attack. Permitting Chad to serve his time in Hawaii under these circumstances is not acceptable. Thank you for taking the time to hear from me.
Her chilling words do not mention the terror of being under the dominion of a 6-7, 310-pound professional athlete, a category of men who, by custom in this country, are often given the public benefit of the doubt. It was learned during arraignment that Kent police officers used a Taser on Wheeler once, to no apparent effect.
Despite the odds, the woman’s own initiative saved her life, and the 911 response was timely enough to begin the attempt for justice.
Superior Court Judge Tanya Thorp said Wheeler, 27, who played five games for Seattle as a backup in 2020, had been fitted for a monitoring device Thursday, and was ordered to remain in the the three-county area (King, Pierce and Snohomish). His trial was booked to begin April 6. If convicted, prosecutors say he is facing a sentence of eight to 12 years.
Yet to heard from in any explanatory way is anything from the Seahawks, the NFL or the players union regarding what they knew about Wheeler and when they knew it. Yes, it’s early in discovery, and there’s the excuse of pending litigation to cover for their silence. Besides, he’s been fired.
But at some point, those things will fall away, leaving only the victim’s words Monday. I’m eager to hear the words of the football side that illuminate this tragedy and helps avert new ones.