BURLEY — Thanksgiving Day began with a turkey and friends visiting for dinner. It ended in a bloody beating for one Burley woman, who testified Friday that her abusive boyfriend made her toddler help torture her with knives.
David James Gifford, 36, is charged with felony domestic battery, injury to a child and attempted strangulation.
In emotion-filled testimony, Gifford’s 29-year-old girlfriend took the witness stand in Cassia County Magistrate Court and tearfully recounted an attack that included him punching, kicking and strangling her until she lost consciousness. The woman, who has a 4-month-old infant with Gifford, said he stabbed her multiple times with a steak knife and gave a knife to her toddler and got him to stab her, too.
The woman said the holiday began with guests at their home and a turkey dinner. Gifford, who had become intoxicated, became enraged over a detail regarding the turkey and started berating her, according to the woman’s testimony. At one point he went in the kitchen and began “tossing the turkey around,” she said, which included picking it up and throwing it with both hands and digging into the bird with his hands and ripping it apart.
“I was scared,” she said. “It didn’t seem like something a sane person would do.”
When she grabbed a cellphone to call the sheriff’s office, he put her in a headlock and flipped her onto the bed.
The woman said she heard her 2-year-old come into the bedroom and Gifford say “What else can we do to her?”
Gifford yanked her hair until her neck popped. He jumped and landed on her back and grabbed her neck with his hands.
“I couldn’t breathe at all and was gasping for air. I was scratching and clawing at him,” she said.
She lost consciousness and everything turned black. She was coughing up blood when she woke up.
The woman testified she went outside and screamed for help, but he forced her back in and told her she wasn’t leaving. Gifford choked her again in the living room where their infant was sleeping.
“He told me he’d kill me and I’d never see my kids again,” the woman said, hunching over at the witness stand and sobbing, which caused the court to call a short break.
When the hearing reconvened, she told the court at that point she was badly injured and couldn’t see well from the blood and swelling in her eyes.
“He told my son to go grab a knife,” she said. The woman thinks the boy returned with a butter knife because Gifford told him “No, a sharp one.” Gifford retrieved two steak knives, one of which he handed to the boy.
He held her down while boy stabbed at her several times in the stomach, the woman testified, but not hard enough to penetrate her skin.
Gifford flipped her over and told the boy, “Stab mommy again,” she said.
Gifford and the boy were both stabbing her in the back using different pressure.
“One was pushing into me and the other was quick jabs,” she said.
Gifford’s attorney, Peter Wells, questioned the woman about her relationship with Gifford, whether she was taking any medication that day, whether she had been drinking and if she had struck him in the face causing a black eye that day, an act she admitted doing.
Wells said her story during the hearing differed from the version she told deputies after the incident. He said she could have left and questioned why she didn’t get up and try to leave.
Her son was close by, she said.
“I would have taken a beating to keep him from getting hurt,” she said.
When Wells asked her if she had a criminal record, Cassia County Chief Deputy Prosecutor McCord Larsen objected and Wells withdrew the question and said he was finished questioning her.
Cannon said he found the woman’s testimony credible and there was enough evidence to warrant the felony charges.
Cannon said the circumstances were “very dangerous” and exposed the children to “extreme violence.” It appeared, he said, Gifford “completely lost control.”
Gifford was bound over to court and will be arraigned at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 23 in Cassia County District Court.