The judge said the 2010 stabbing in a Midtown hotel room was one of the worst cases of attempted murder he had ever seen. The victim, who was slashed more than 20 times in the face, throat, chest and neck, said she forgave her now-ex-husband but will never get over the horror of the assault. And the defendant, Saliym Cureton, implied that another man hurt his wife and that he simply had failed to protect her.
Anchorage Superior Court Judge Michael Spaan presided over Cureton's trial earlier this year and said Monday he had no doubt that the right man was convicted of the near-killing. At Monday's hearing, he sentenced Cureton to 40 years for attempted murder and another year for violating a civil restraining order that was supposed to have protected his wife. Cureton, 30, also must serve an additional 10 years of probation.
"This was a violent attack. It was fueled by rage. The defendant stabbed the victim again, again, again and again, at least 20 times," Spaan said before pronouncing the sentence.
When Cureton grabbed that knife, Spaan said, "he became the executioner." If the victim had died, there was enough evidence to convict Cureton of murder, the judge said. He was angry because his wife was moving on with her life -- without him, Spaan said.
The victim now goes by Dorean Donovan, her maiden name. She's 31. Scars line her throat and neck, faint but visible etchings of that terrible night. Just a couple of weeks before the attack, she had filed for divorce. She had sought protective orders at least four times. Her divorce from Cureton was finalized earlier this year.
She said before Monday's hearing that it was time for the criminal case to end and the endless delays to stop. Over nearly three years, she's been to numerous hearings at the courthouse seeking justice.
Cureton, dressed in jailhouse yellow, his hands shackled in front of him, on Monday tried to put off the sentencing once more. He told the judge his legal papers were at the Anchorage jail and it would take a few days to get them. A probation officer called the jail from her cell phone and arranged for Cureton's box of research and writings to be delivered.
"Thank God," Donovan whispered.
When she got her turn to speak Monday, she got her message across in a voice choking with tears.
"I just want to let you know I do forgive you for what you've done," Donovan said. "But it's going to be with me for the rest of my life."
She suffers panic attacks, anxiety and nightmares, she said. When her family visits from Barrow, she cannot visit their hotel rooms because of the flashbacks. She cannot watch horror movies.
His lies are the worst of it, she said.
"You're still in denial. You still won't say that you've done this to me. And that hurts the most," Donovan said.
Prosecutor Robert Henderson called the case maddening. Under the protective order, Cureton never should have been anywhere near his wife on Jan. 30, 2010. She made plans to go out with friends. She arranged for her sons to stay with their father and got a sitter for the daughter she had with Cureton.
"All the steps Dorean took to have a fun night out in a safe environment failed," Henderson wrote in his sentencing memorandum.
Donovan said after the hearing that she had left a message on her voice mail telling friends she was at the Extended Stay Deluxe, and Cureton must have used that to track her down.
Cureton's chances for rehabilitation are extremely poor because "he has yet to admit what he did was wrong. He had yet to take responsibility for his actions," Henderson said.
At his trial earlier this year, Cureton took the witness stand and told a story about how he wasn't the assailant, but that two other men were involved, Henderson said. He said an unknown naked man stabbed his wife, the prosecutor said.
In the hotel room, "the level of violence he used ... was astounding," Henderson said. He stabbed her more than 21 times, the prosecutor said. The injuries "focused on her face, on her neck, sending the message that he wanted to mutilate."
The violence began early in the marriage and escalated, Henderson said.
He argued that Cureton should serve 50 years for attempted murder, plus one for violating the restraining order.
But Cureton, acting as his own lawyer and referring to himself as "the defendant", countered that he was a good prospect for rehabilitation. He's been respectful in court. He has no prior felonies. He served in the Navy. He worked for the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce. He managed a Taco Bell. Even in jail, he said, he's worked at various jobs.
He said he prayed for Donovan's recovery from the assault and cares about her. He described her as a strong woman able to "overcome this event."
He said he knew he "had failed as both a husband and a person in not preventing such a horrifying thing from taking place."
Spaan said that there appeared to be two Saliym Curetons, one reasonable and committed to service and the other bundled up with rage. He was still a danger to his ex-wife, the judge said.
Cureton had previous misdemeanor convictions for domestic violence and drunken driving but the fact he had no prior felonies worked in his favor, Spaan said, explaining why he didn't follow the prosecutor's recommendation.
Cureton won't be eligible for discretionary parole until he's served a third of his sentence or for release because of good behavior until he's served two thirds, Henderson said after the hearing.
Someone who violates a protective order should face more than a year in jail, Donovan said.
Cureton's sentence, she said, is not enough punishment for the damage he did.
Reach Lisa Demer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4390.
By LISA DEMER