LAKELAND, Fla. - There’s no getting around one painful memory for Lakeland mother of four, Jennifer Rutledge. That memory is an image of her estranged husband, Robert, in a fit of rage.
“He had a rope in his hand and he told me I was going to die and I was going to commit suicide,” she said.
Jennifer is still shocked over what she describes as a generous punishment handed down to Robert by a judge earlier this month.
He was sentenced to 10 years probation, but no time in prison. She expected he would be locked up for at least five years.
“I’m always going to be a woman whose husband tried to murder her,” she said.
It happened around Thanksgiving last year.
Jennifer was on the phone talking to a man she ran into the day before. Investigators say Robert, who was a field worker for Verizon at the time, listened in on their conversation through the phone box on the side of the house using tools from work.
Jennifer says they were separated then, living in different homes.
“All of a sudden the phone went dead,” she said.
That’s when he barged in and they both tussled on the couch and then on the floor.
“He had a rope in his hand and he told me I was going to die and I was going to commit suicide,” she said. “I was begging him the entire time to let me live.”
Jennifer remembers Robert wrapping the rope around her neck several times, strangling her to the point where she blacked out.
“He just kept telling me that I was going to die and he was going to kill me,” she said as she wiped away tears.
Jennifer managed to escape. Robert turned himself in the following day for attempted murder, among other charges.
After waiting more than a year, she decided the best outcome would be to avoid a long and exhausting process of going to trial, so she signed off on a plea deal.
On December 14th, a judge sentenced Robert to 10 years probation.
Jennifer feels this sends the wrong message to the community about domestic violence.
Today she and her kids are trying to move forward. Jennifer joined the board at Heather’s Hope -- a foundation that promotes awareness and prevention of domestic violence.
“I need to make something come out of this that’s positive. That’s me. That’s what I’m going to do with what has happened to me,” she said.
On this night before Christmas, she hopes her story may convince others that it’s not too late to get help, or get out of an abusive relationship.
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