A Denham Springs man accused of beating his girlfriend to death with a metal pipe in front of at least one of her three young children Tuesday previously received probation for punching another woman in the stomach while she was pregnant with his child, causing her to vomit blood, court records show.
Jerry J. Pinestraw Jr., 37, told investigators Tuesday that he fatally struck his live-in girlfriend, Nicole M. Ozment, 29, during a heated argument overnight at their home in the 8600 block of Chickasaw Street, authorities said.
Court records in Tangipahoa Parish, where Pinestraw previously lived, show a history of domestic abuse.
In 2003, Pinestraw pleaded no contest in state district court in Amite to battering another girlfriend, Beiounca Watkins, of Independence, by punching her in the face and stomach when she was three months pregnant.
Watkins told investigators that Pinestraw had beaten her when she tried to run away from him the morning of April 24, 2003, according to the initial investigation report.
Watkins’ left eyeball was red and the surrounding tissue was swollen, as was her neck where she told investigators Pinestraw had grabbed her, the report states.
Watkins, who was estimated to be 14 weeks and 6 days pregnant at the time, also had a premature contraction during an emergency-room examination an hour after the beating, according to medical records filed into the court record.
The fetal heart rate was normal with no abnormalities identified, according to the medical records.
The District Attorney’s Office initially charged Pinestraw with second-degree battery in the case, but later reduced the charge to simple battery, and Pinestraw pleaded no contest on Oct. 27, 2003.
He was sentenced to serve six months in parish prison, suspended, with two years of supervised probation. He also was ordered to pay Watkins restitution for her medical bills.
Less than two years later, Pinestraw was arrested again and charged with first-offense domestic abuse battery against Watkins.
He again pleaded no contest on Sept. 24, 2006, and was given credit for time served. The exact amount of time he spent in jail was not immediately available.
Darren Blevins, chairman of the board for Women Outreaching Women in Denham Springs, said domestic abuse typically worsens over time and can escalate from one relationship to the next.
Blevins stressed that he was unfamiliar with this case, but said his work with the organization serving battered women has taught him, “The biggest pattern is that it progressively gets worse, especially if the abuser gets away with it the first time.”
Abusive relationships are typically about control, Blevins said, and women with children are particularly vulnerable because they will tolerate more abuse for the sake of keeping a roof over their children’s heads.
“Statistics say women will go back (to an abuser) up to eight times before finally leaving for good,” Blevins said. “And he’ll fight her leaving. He’ll try to get her back, and if he can’t, he’ll try to control the next one even more.”
An autopsy performed Wednesday confirmed Ozment died of multiple blunt-force injuries, said Chief Investigator Joe Harrell, of the Livingston Parish Coroner’s Office. Harrell declined to release any further details until the autopsy report is completed, which he said could take 10 to 12 weeks.
Investigators have said Ozment suffered severe facial trauma.
Ozment’s three children, all under the age of 10, have been placed in state custody, authorities said.
Pinestraw remained in the Livingston Parish Detention Center in lieu of $500,000 bail Wednesday. He faces one count of second-degree murder and three counts of child desertion.
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter @HeidiRKinchen.