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Radford grand jury gets charges for attack on mother; charges for death of child pending

Radford grand jury gets charges for attack on mother; charges for death of child pending

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RADFORD — Charges that Andrew Jonathon Byrd attacked his former girlfriend during an April altercation will go to a Radford grand jury, a judge ruled Tuesday.

A grand jury also will be asked to bring charges related to the death of 2-year-old Harper Mitchell, the daughter of the woman Byrd allegedly attacked, Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Rehak wrote in an email after a preliminary hearing Tuesday in the city’s Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

Rehak wrote that he could not say yet who he will be seeking to indict for the child’s death.

Grand juries decide if evidence is sufficient for charges to be tried in circuit court.

Byrd, 34, was arrested April 17, the morning after he was accused of beating and choking Amanda Mitchell, 30, and preventing her from obtaining help for her daughter. Radford police said in April that a juvenile in Byrd’s care died.

At Tuesday’s preliminary hearing, Mitchell testified that before the attack, she had dated Byrd and lived with him for nearly eight months in a residence owned by his mother in the 100 block of Radford’s 9th Street. Her three children, two boys and Harper, were with them every other week, she said.

On April 16, Mitchell said, Byrd picked her up at about 11 p.m. from her clerical job at Carilion New River Valley Medical Center. Her children were in the back seat of the 2016 Ford Focus.

Mitchell testified that she was driving and had just begun the 10-minute trip home when she realized that something was wrong with Harper. “My daughter was not acting right, and I wanted to take her to the hospital,” Mitchell said.

But Byrd began yelling at her and saying she could not go back, Mitchell said. She testified that at one point, near Rock Road, she abruptly stopped the car, but Byrd put his foot over the center console and pushed down on the gas pedal. Mitchell said she still was pressing the brake and the car shut off.

Eventually, the couple reached 9th Street and went inside with the children. The boys went to their bedroom and Harper was put on a mattress on the floor in a room.

Mitchell said she and Byrd kept arguing about getting help for Harper. Byrd knocked Mitchell’s cell phone out of her hand and began hitting her, she testified.

During the next few hours, Mitchell testified, Byrd punched her in the face and body, bit her face and hand, stomped on her foot, and lifted her off the ground in a chokehold so that she could not breathe.

At one point, Mitchell testified, Byrd got a shotgun. Standing over her and pinning her against a couch, Byrd shoved the gun’s barrel into her mouth and said he would kill her, Mitchell said.

Byrd also said that if police came, he would kill whoever came through the door then kill himself, Mitchell said.

Rehak introduced into evidence about 30 pictures of bruises and other injuries that were taken after Mitchell went to a hospital the next morning. A detective showed the shotgun that officers later took from the home.

Mitchell said that she would not leave without her children. About three hours into the altercation, she said, Byrd went outside. Mitchell said she grabbed her phone from the kitchen floor, locked herself in a bathroom and called Byrd’s mother. Mitchell said she asked her to call 911 for Harper.

Byrd’s mother did so, and also came to the house, where Byrd backhanded Mitchell across the face in front of her, Mitchell said.

Soon emergency crews and police arrived. Detective Austin Cox of the city police department testified that officers were at the hospital with Mitchell when they were told that Byrd, still at the couple’s home, was texting his mother and threatening to shoot police. A city SWAT team went to the 9th Street residence and arrested Byrd, Cox said.

Byrd at first denied arguing with Mitchell, then denied hitting her or doing anything physical to her, Cox said. Later he said that he could not recall what occurred, “but if she has bruises, it probably happened,” Cox testified.

Search warrants filed in the case said investigators located what appeared to be drugs and drug paraphernalia.

Defense attorney Lindsay Phipps of Pulaski, one of two lawyers representing Byrd on Tuesday, asked Mitchell how long before the incident she had used methamphetamine. Mitchell said that she had used it a month or so before the fight with Byrd. Phipps also asked Mitchell if her injuries could have come from rough sex with Byrd the night before and Mitchell said that no, the injuries were not from that.

Phipps asked Mitchell if she had added to her accusations against Byrd each time she talked to police and Mitchell said she had.

Rehak asked Mitchell why the initial statement was not complete and Mitchell said she was under a lot of stress when she wrote out a first account in the hospital at about 6 a.m. on April 17.

Phipps asked Mitchell if she had talked to anyone about her statements between making them, and Mitchell said only to her parents.

Judge Stephanie Murray Shortt certified felony charges of strangulation and abduction to a grand jury. Shortt convicted Byrd of a misdemeanor domestic assault charge and sentenced him to 12 months in jail. Phipps said he would appeal, and Shortt said the assault charge likely would be decided in Circuit Court with the other matters.

Shortt also extended a protective order — a separate matter in which Byrd was represented by attorney Matt Roberts of Blacksburg — that barred any contact between Byrd and Mitchell. Byrd was being held Tuesday at the New River Valley Regional Jail.

On Tuesday, the state medical examiner’s office referred questions about Harper Mitchell’s cause of death to the Radford Police Department. Chief Jeff Dodson declined to answer questions, saying it still is an active investigation.

In an email, Dodson wrote that he hoped to have additional information about the case to release soon.

Byrd attended Tuesday’s hearing by a video link from jail. He did not testify but watched impassively as witnesses, attorneys, and the judge spoke.

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