UNION — A woman who stabbed to death the man she said had been abusing her for more than three years was sentenced to 12 years in prison Thursday afternoon.
Christina Oliver, 37, 116 Hunters Trail, Whitmire, was arrested in Sept. 2012 by the Union County Sheriff’s Office and charged with murder in the death of Kenneth Goins, 33, also of 116 Hunters Trail Whitmire. Oliver has been held in the Union County Jail since her arrest.
While she was initially charged with murder, Oliver pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter Thursday morning during a hearing before Judge Michael Nettles of Florence in the main courtroom of the Union County Courthouse. After several hours of subsequent testimony by Oliver and several other witnesses as well as other evidence submitted by the state and the defense, Nettles sentenced Oliver to 12 years in prison with credit for the 414 days she has already spent in jail.
The hearing that occurred between Oliver’s plea and her sentencing was to determine whether or not she would be eligible for parole or be required to serve 85 percent of her sentence.
For its part, the defense presented Oliver as the victim of more than three years of domestic abuse by Goins which whom she began a relationship in 2008. Oliver testified that they’d lived together in Tennessee, in North Carolina, and in Whitmire during the duration of their relationship. She said that during that time Goins repeatedly abused her, hitting her, puching her, braking her teeth, blacking her eyes, kicking her, pulling her hair, and even on somes occasions pulling a knife or a gun on her.
Even though she was repeatedly abused by Goins, on only four occasions were the authorities called in, the last time being Sept. 26, 2012 when Oliver fatally stabbed him. The stabbing grew out of an argument that began when Oliver, Goins, and her teenage son Cameron were playing game of dice during they’d been drinking alcohol. Oliver said Goins was picking at her and teasing her during the game then began cursing her and followed her into their house where he at one pointed kicked in the bathroom door.
Oliver said her son had walked away because he didn’t want to hear her and Goins fighting and so she’d started to text a relative telling him she was tired of living this way. She said Goins snatched the phone out of her hand and started slapping her, in the process cutting his hand on a glass she’d been drinking from. Oliver said he thing began slinging blood all over her and the room. She said her son returned at that point and confronted Goins and the two started fighting.
It was at that point Oliver said she went in the kitchen and got a knife to protect herself and her son whom she said Goins had cornered so he couldn’t move and smeared blood on. She said she tried to get between they and was using the knife to try to ward off Goins when she said he lunged was impaled on the knife.
Oliver said she told her son to call 911 and while he did she said she held Goins.
Initially, Oliver’s son told authorities Goins had been injured when he fell through some glass, but later said his mother told him to say that. Oliver, however, said Thursday that she’d never told her son to say that, but had initially backed up his story to keep him out of trouble. She said that when questioned about it later she told deputies what had actually happened.
Two of the three other incidents occurred while the couple was living in North Carolina. In one instance, Oliver stabbed Goins in the leg when he was beating her, but in order to keep him out of jail they told police that he’d been stabbed by someone who’d broken into their home. The police, however, quickly determined that the stabbing had been the result of domestic violence.
The other North Carolina incident involved Goins hitting Oliver because he believed she was cheating on him with a friend who they had been out with. The friend got into a fight with Goins because of his hitting Oliver and then called police. Goins was arrested for hitting Oliver and for resisting arrest by the officer who used a taser no him. Oliver was also charged with resisting arrest. She said it was because she’d asked the officer not to taser Goins but the officer’s report stated she’d gotten up off the ground and advanced on him in an aggressive manner.
The other incident occurred in Tennesee when the couple was living with Goins family, but while Oliver testified that she was attacked by Goins, his mother, Alexis McKnight said that it was Oliver who’d been the abuser, pinning him against a door and yelling and cursing him because a former girlfriend had contacted him. McKnight said that Oliver had even gone to the woman’s apartment and kicked in her door.
Sixteenth Circuit Deputy Solicitor John Anthony pointed out that in three of the four instances where authorities were called to scene, it was a third party who’d called them, not Oliver. He also pointed out that in the instance where she’d stabbed Goins in the leg, a neighbor who’d heard the incident said it sounded like Oliver was the aggressor, not Goins.
The defense also presented testimony from Mary Victoria Burris, a social work and executive director of the Family Justice Center, who testified that Oliver is suffering from both Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Battered Spouse Syndrome. She said this was the result of the many years of domestic abuse she’d suffered, adding that in such cases it was often the case that the battered continued living with the batterer, hoping they’d change.
During her testimony, Oliver said she loved Goins, calling him her best friend and that she’d taken him back because she thought he would change. In her final statement before Nettles passed sentence, Oliver said she’d never mean to harm Goins and his death was always on her mind and that she has to live with the fact that she’s taken her best friend’s life.
In passing sentence, Nettles said that while he didn’t believe some of the things Oliver had said during her testimony, the defense had presented credible evidence that there had been a pattern of criminal domestic violence against her. As a result, Nettles said Oliver would be eligible for parole.