Whether a torture and domestic violence suspect spends life in prison will depend on if jurors believe his alleged victim, an admitted drug user who sobbed in court Tuesday.
For three days this summer, Charles Peck, 51, allegedly held his girlfriend against her will at their Acampo home, beat her and chained her to a bed. The woman testified against him at an August preliminary hearing and on Tuesday she again faced him, this time at a trial in front of 12 jurors.
She cried at times as she described the beating, losing consciousness several times and waking up to find that she was chained by the neck to a fold-away couch inside a hot garage.
Her hands shook as she looked through graphic photos of her injuries, including a massive bruise to her buttocks, a blackened hand and bruising down the right side of her face. She said punches broke her dentures into four pieces, and previously testified that she suffered a stroke as a result of the attack.
In opening statements earlier Tuesday, Peck's defense attorney told the jurors they would see photos but said they wouldn't be enough to convict Peck.
"The evidence will show that she lies, she steals, that she manipulates people, that she does all of these things in order to maintain her lifestyle, a lifestyle of abusing drugs," Deputy Public Defender Michael Bullard told the jury.
The woman previously acknowledged under oath that she has used drugs for decades.
Jurors soon heard from the woman herself, who sobbed aloud as she described regaining consciousness to find that she was chained around the neck. When she tried to escape, she testified, Peck was outside and tackled her, then dragged her "like a freaking dog" back inside.
The incident lasted for several days starting June 27, said Deputy District Attorney Jeff Derman.
That day, the woman testified, she had traveled to Los Angeles with Peck, a truck driver. On the way home they began arguing about his cross-dressing, which she didn't like.
A few hours later Peck attacked the woman as she slept, wrapped her head in duct tape, punched her and knocked her out, the woman said.
The News-Sentinel, which does not typically name alleged domestic violence victims, is not naming the woman.
In addition to domestic violence, Peck is charged with assault, false imprisonment, dissuading a witness and torture — which can carry a sentence of life in prison.
He also has previous felony convictions, and served 21 years behind bars in Kansas for kidnapping, robbery and burglary convictions. He was paroled to California, because he had family in Lodi.
He and the victim had been dating for more than two years and lived together in a trailer off Peltier Road.
After the assault at their home, Peck allegedly "flip-flopped," Derman said, and cleaned up the woman's wounds. She said she was too scared to try leaving again, even when Peck left the home to get food.
On July 1, she did finally leave the home and ran onto Peltier Road around 6:30 a.m. Two passing cars slowed, and a third motorist, Todd Schmierer, also stopped.
The two vehicles in front of him kept driving, but Schmierer testified that he saw a "frantic" woman waving her arms to stop the cars.
The barefoot woman wore nothing but a white T-Shirt and said, "I need help, I need help, he's coming back," Schmierer said.
He called 9-1-1 and, since the woman was so upset, had her sit in the passenger seat of his truck until rescue personnel arrived. It took about 15 to 20 minutes for a fire truck and ambulance to come, he said, and they took the woman to Lodi Memorial Hospital.
Several days later, Sheriff's deputies found Peck camping near Highway 99. In a truck belonging to him, relatives had found a note in Peck's writing asking that his property be given to his stepfather.
The trial continues before Judge Peter Saiers, and the jury of seven women and five men will ultimately be asked to decide if Peck is guilty or if the alleged victim's testimony doesn't prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.
"People who are drug addicts don't need other problems in their lives, but that's what she got — Mr. Peck," the prosecutor said.