ELYRIA — Former Lorain County Jail Corrections Officer William Dembie Jr. was abused by his wife, whom he is accused of stabbing to death last week, his attorney said Tuesday.
Defense attorney J. Anthony Rich said William Dembie, who resigned from his job on Monday, endured years of psychological and physical abuse at the hands of Holly Dembie, who worked with special needs children at Midview Schools.
“He’s a classic battered spouse,” Rich said of Dembie, who is jailed on charges of murder and domestic violence.
Holly Dembie’s mother, Cheryl Foldes, rejected the allegation that her daughter was abusive or could have even physically assaulted William Dembie, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps and the Army National Guard.
“She was not a batterer, she was a nurturer,” Foldes said.
Foldes and other members of Holly Dembie’s family have said that William Dembie was the abusive one in the marriage and would use tactics he learned to control prisoners on his long-suffering wife.
“Holly said to him, ‘I am not an inmate, don’t put your hands on me,’ ” Foldes said.
But Rich said the only reason William Dembie, 42, used those techniques was to gain control of Holly Dembie when she would get physically violent.
“The person who has been portrayed in the media is not the person he lived with,” Rich said.
Foldes said her daughter was not only physically abused, but emotionally tormented by her husband as well. She said her son-in-law was a dark and selfish loner who rarely helped around the house, skipped family events and neglected his wife and the couple’s 4-year-old son.
Her daughter, she said, had consulted a lawyer and was planning to divorce William Dembie, whom she married in 2005.
“She thought she had married an American hero,” Foldes said. “But she married a man who was damaged.”
Dembie called the sheriff’s office around 1:30 a.m. Thursday and told dispatcher Joy Sanchez that he had killed his wife and was waiting for deputies in his kitchen.
He calmly told Sanchez that he had nearly beheaded his wife, but investigators have said that although there were knife wounds on Holly Dembie’s neck and torso, she wasn’t beheaded.
“I just couldn’t deal with her (expletive) anymore,” Dembie told Sanchez during the call.
Deputies found Holly Dembie’s nude body behind the couple’s Cowley Road home in Grafton Township.
William Dembie, who was dressed and bloody, was found outside the house by deputies and willingly surrendered.
Foldes said she and her family, who live two doors down from the Dembie house, weren’t home because she had gone to a drive-in movie with her grandson and other family members.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Donald Barker has said that William Dembie told investigators that he and his wife had been discussing a divorce. He also said Dembie told them that an argument had escalated into a violent confrontation that night.
Barker said Tuesday that Dembie never mentioned anything to him about being the victim of abuse.
Foldes said she believes William Dembie felt rejected by her daughter, even though he didn’t seem happy with their marriage either. William Dembie’s first marriage, which gave him three children, also ended in divorce and left him angry, she said.
The one who paid the price for William Dembie’s unhappiness, Foldes said, was Holly Dembie.
“All that hatred and anger fell on her,” she said.
She said she knew something horrible had happened as she drove home that night and saw the patrol cars and crime scene tape in her daughter’s yard.
“All the indicators were there, but nobody had any idea he would snap,” Foldes said.
Rich said he doesn’t believe the murder charge his client faces is the right charge for the circumstance of what happened early Thursday.
Although Rich declined to elaborate on what his client said occurred that night, he believes a more appropriate charge would be voluntary manslaughter. That charge, he said, deals with killings committed by someone who has been provoked into a “sudden passion or in a fit of rage.”
Dembie told Sheriff’s Lt. Jack Hammond, the Lorain County Jail administrator, that he was resigning when Hammond visited him at the Erie County Jail to discuss disciplinary action, Lorain County Sheriff Phil Stammitti said.
Rich said he intends to ask for his client to receive a lower bond during a hearing scheduled for Thursday in Elyria Municipal Court. The current bond is $5 million, which Rich called “excessive.”
There are accused killers, Rich said, who haven’t cooperated with police, as his client has, who are being held on far lower bonds.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.