Charges dropped in case of girlfriend set on fire

Ray Charles Jackson (Feb. 13, 2015)

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Ray Jackson’s February arraignment via video is as far as the criminal case against him went.

Kalamazoo Public Safety Department detectives say that the 52-year-old Jackson threatened his girlfriend with a knife, strangled her, doused her with rubbing alcohol and then set her on fire because she tried to break up with him.

Jackson was facing four felony charges: Assault with intent to do great bodily harm, strangulation, assault with a dangerous weapon and interfering with electronic communications.

But on March 19, the judge dismissed the case against him when the victim and subpoenaed witnesses didn’t show up for a hearing.

Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting says his office lined up the witnesses who heard Jackson’s girlfriend screaming as she ran outside, still on fire. He said the girlfriend also told police what happened.

But without that testimony in court, the judge had to dismiss the case.

“My frustration is the fact that typically these types of behaviors repeat themselves and if we don’t intercede, if we don’t get cooperation from witnesses and victims, it’s likely going to happen again,” said Getting.

24-hour domestic violence hotlines:

Cathy Brown with the Kalamazoo YWCA has worked with many domestic violence victims over the years. She says fear, mixed emotions and short sentences often deter victims from testifying because batterers often serve 93 days and then return home.

“Many are afraid that they may be beaten this time or they may be burnt this time, but they may be dead next time,” Brown said.

She says it is critical that victims have support from authorities so they feel confident when testifying.

Getting said his office can do that.

“The reality is a case like this gets attention because the case got dismissed. We do hundreds of cases every year that don’t get dismissed,” he said.

Jackson’s girlfriend managed to escape and put out the fire, but not before she sustained first- and second-degree burns to her upper torso and face.

Prosecutors can reopen the case should other witnesses come forward or if the victim changes her mind.

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