Linda David testifies against her husband

Disjointed story includes abuse and love

By SCOTT NORTH

Herald Writer

EVERETT — She sat in a courtroom Monday and told a story as old as the first slap, the first time a marriage went terribly awry.

She loved her husband, the woman said. She loved him even when he hit her in fits of anger or pushed her onto the floor of their home or punished her for not completing chores, on time and the way he liked them done.

The story from Linda David was familiar. But not its telling.

Seated in a wheelchair, her eyes all but blind and her face distorted by scar tissue, the 52-year-old Lynnwood woman gave halting and at times unintelligible testimony about the years she lived aboard a filthy sailboat with her husband, Victor David, 60, and a half-dozen German shepherd dogs.

"I loved Vic … I wanted to stay with him, no matter what," Linda David said at one point.

Victor David is on trial for second-degree assault. Snohomish County prosecutors allege he abused his wife for years, leaving her with injuries ranging from cauliflowered ears to broken bones and brain damage.

Linda David’s condition was discovered in 1997, when a state social worker tracked the couple down to the Everett waterfront, where their boat was moored to a piling. At the time, Victor David, formerly of Marysville, was being paid about $500 a month by the state to care for his wife, whom he claimed had multiple sclerosis.

Jurors have heard several witnesses describe how Linda David was emaciated, barely able to move and covered with filth when she was removed from the sailboat.

She’s spent the years since being cared for at a Lynnwood nursing home. Although she’s gained weight, Linda David is still unable to move, and an assistant had to raise her right hand so she could be sworn in before she testified. Linda David’s speech also is difficult to understand, her words often slurred and her sentences difficult to follow.

At a pre-trial hearing in mid September, Linda David gave conflicting testimony about whether she had been abused. She’s repeatedly told investigators, doctors and others that her husband hadn’t hurt her, and that her injuries were the result of falls.

Monday’s testimony was in sharp contrast. She initially had a difficult time answering basic questions, such as the name of the nursing home where she lives, places she and Victor David had called home, even her husband’s last name.

The courtroom was uncomfortably silent as Linda David simply left unanswered nearly a half dozen of the initial questions that were put to her.

But deputy prosecutor Jo Vanderlee had no difficulty getting Linda David to talk about whether she’d ever been hit by Victor David. Linda David testified her husband not only hit her but also pushed her down.

"That’s a sad fact, but true. That’s a sad fact, but tragically true," Linda David said at one point.

Victor David’s attorney, Bryan Hershman of Tacoma, was able to get Linda David to open up even more. She joked with the lawyer and told him he had a "cool, deep voice."

She acknowledged that she had told Hershman and others that Victor David had not hurt her. But on Monday she clearly and repeatedly said her husband had harmed her on the boat.

"He did hurt me," Linda David said. "He did cause my falls."

When Hershman pressed her to explain the contradictions, Linda David’s speech became more rapid and less comprehensible.

She said her husband was not the type of man who would hurt her, "was not into hitting and hurting. That’s not the way he was."

But he did, Linda David testified. "It’s an unfortunate fact, but he did."

Outside the presence of jurors, Hershman charged that prosecutors or others had tainted Linda David’s memory, working to change her testimony.

"I don’t know who this woman is," he said.

Vanderlee denied the allegation.

The trial is expected to last up to two more weeks. Most of the prosecution’s remaining witnesses are doctors who are expected to testify about Linda David’s injuries.

On Monday, Dr. Joyce Mauk, an Edmonds neurologist, told jurors that Linda David does not have multiple sclerosis although she exhibits some of the symptoms. Instead, she said, the woman appears to have sustained repeated head trauma, creating brain damage similar to that found in boxers who have taken too many blows to the head.

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