Before they wed, Bernadette Sugrim’s husband confided a sickening truth: he had killed a man… and never been caught. But when he killed again, she knew she had to turn him in or pay with her life. Bernadette recalls the terror of living with a murderer, and how she found the courage to break her silence

Description: “Just married… and keeping his terrible secret”

“Just married… and keeping his terrible secret”

On the morning of April 9, 2012, I could feel my heart pound as I took my seat in the courtroom where Brian, my husband of 14 years, was standing trial foe the brutal murder of a prostitute in Michigan in 2003. It took all I had not to look him in the eyes. I knew he was guilty he’d confessed the crime to me in secret, years before but as the jury stood to announce their verdict, I started to panic, scared there might be a loophole that would prevent him spending the rest of his life behind bars. I knew that if he walked away a free man, it would be only a matter of time before he’d hunt me down and kill me…

’Til death us do part

I knew when I married my husband that he’s killed someone. I also know what you’re thinking. If I hadn’t been through it myself, I’d be thinking it too. But unless you’re been in an abusive relationship, I don’t think anyone can understand what real fear does to a person.

I was 17 when o met Brian. It was 1995, a beautiful June day, and my cousins and I had decided to go swimming. When Brian appeared, walking out of the woods with a backpack, I thought he was the most handsome man I’d ever seen. He was two years older than me, dark with chiseled features. My cousins knew him from our small town of Goshen, New York, so they asked him to join us. He was charming and funny, and we couldn’t take our eyes off each other. Having grown up in poverty with six siblings, I wasn’t used to attention, but he doted on me. His life hadn’t been easy, either. He’d arrived from Guyana as an illegal immigrant when he was ten. He didn’t get on with his father and, from time to time, he lived with a foster family. He was the first man to say I was beautiful, and I soon fell head over heels. He was my first kiss, my first love. He was exactly what I needed, and within three weeks, I knew I wanted to marry him.

We’d been dating for a year when he revealed a terrible secret. “I did something really bad I killed a man,” he told me. I was shocked, but too terrified to ask questions. He had no remorse, claiming the man, Demetrius Carter, 60, an Aids patient his parents had taken in, had no life and it didn’t matter if he lived or died. He begged my forgiveness, saying he needed me to love him. It was too much for me to comprehend, but I was young and naive, and believed that by showing him kindness and non-violence, I could change him, and show him how good life can be.

The authorities never suspected him and, in June 1997, we married in a church in front of 300 guests. But it wasn’t all rose. Six months later, I became convinced he was cheating on me and left him, but he talked me into coming back to him. Three years ago, I got pregnant, and he started drinking. Again, I left, but shortly before I gave birth to our daughter. Sky, he said he wanted us to get back together. He was all I had and, despite everything, I still loved him, so we made it work.

Soon, we moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan. Brian for a job teaching martial arts to kids, I worked in a bank, and we bought a house. From the outside, we looked the perfect family. Brian was a doting father he’d cuddle Sky, calling her his baby dragon. When I fell pregnant again, in 2001, it wasn’t planned, but we were thrilled. Everything seemed to be going so well.

Then, when I was seven months pregnant, it all changed. Brian’s youngest brother, Christopher, 23, was killed in a motorcycle crash. They were very close, and he took it hard. “Why did Christopher have to die?” he said. “He was the good one. I’m the evil one.” In the weeks that followed, he started staying out all night, drinking heavily and doing cocaine and crystal meth. He’d lose his temper easily, and became psychologically and physically abusive. It evolved from throwing vases at me to waking me up with a rifle pointed at my face.

Description: when I was seven months pregnant, it all changed

When I was seven months pregnant, it all changed

When our son, Chris, was born, things didn’t improve. I thought about leaving, but could never go through with it. One minute, he’d be screaming obscenities at me; the next, he’s tell me how much he  loved me and that I was the best thing that ever happened to him. It became my reality. I was paralysed by fear, not thinking about anything but surviving that hour of that day, and keeping my children safe. The longer I stayed, the less emotional I became. Unable to see a way out, I simply shut down.

He kills again

In September 2003, Brian woke me in the dead of night, frantic, saying he’d done something awful. My heart leapt. He told me: “I killed a woman. I stabbed her to death.” I didn’t learn until later that she was a 39 year old prostitute named Linda Gibson, but he told me he’d murdered her in our van, then dumped the body just blocks from our house. He said he was going to stay with my cousins in New York, and said if I told anyone about it, he’d kill me and my mum, that he’d “gut her like the pig she is”. Terrified, I kept my mouth shut.

Description: My heart leapt. He told me: “I killed a woman. I stabbed her to death.”

My heart leapt. He told me: “I killed a woman. I stabbed her to death.”

Six weeks on, Brian returned. The body had been found, but there were no suspects. I bought a gun and slept with it under my pillow. Brian knew I had it, but he’d laugh, saying that I wasn’t capable of pulling the trigger. He was right. I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I went to jail for killing Brian and my kids were placed in the custody of the state.

Over the next six years, Brian revealed details of how he’d murdered Linda Gibson. He said he’d burnt her clothes and jewellery in the fire pit behind our house, and that she’d put up a good fight, making him worry his DNA was beneath her nails. But the most gruesome detail was that he said he’d killed her because she reminded him of me.

The stress started to take its toll and, in 2009, I suffered a heart attack. I was 31. I was clinically dead for seven minutes. Five days later, I woke up in hospital and my cardiologist told me I had Long QT Syndrome, where my heart gets slower between beats. But I knew the real reason.

No longer able to live the way I was, I gathered the strength to tell Brian I wanted a divorce. He told me that if I ever tried to leave, he’d kill me.

Free at last

The day everything changed was May 16, 2011. I came home to find Brian beating Sky, then 11, with a baton, as she hadn’t been able to control the dog. As Chris, eight, watched in horror, he slammed Sky against the wall. I thought he was going to kill her, and started hitting him. Sky ran for help.

When the police finally arrived, I was both relieved and panicky. It was the first time they’d been involved. What would Brian do to us after they left? An officer pulled me aside and said unless I pressed charges they were going to leave. This was my chance. If I didn’t say anything now, we were dead. Taking a deep breath, I looked the officer in the eye and said, “If you don’t take him, he’ll kill us all before the night is through.” Without hesitation, they hauled him away.

At the police station, I told them Brian had killed Linda Gibson. It felt amazing not to have to hold it in any more after all those years. I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted.

In February 2012, Brian’s case went to trial. He was found guilty of first-degree murder and given life without parole. I cried tears of joy. At last, my family and I were safe. Afterwards, one juror called me a hero. I was stunned. If anyone’s a hero, it’s Sky. I’m so proud of what she did.

All I want now is to live a normal life, go bike-riding with my kids, and be happy. The other murder Brian confessed to, of Demetrius Carter, is still under investigation, but I never want to see or talk to him again. For the longest time, my life was about surviving. My message to other women is to not let fear prevent them getting out of an abusive relationship. It takes courage. But it’s the only way to break free and live a life worth living.

Leaving an abusive relationship

In the UK, a staggering 45% of women have experienced domestic violence. Every week, at least two women are killed by their partners. If you or anyone you know is a victim, here’s how to seek help:

Description: In the UK, a staggering 45% of women have experienced domestic violence

In the UK, a staggering 45% of women have experienced domestic violence

Don’t try to handle the situation on your own. Contact a friend or family member and ask if you can stay with them for the time being.

Don’t tell the person who’s abusing you where you are going or how they can contact you. Just pack your essentials and leave as quickly as possible.

Call the police and make a formal complaint.

Get counseling. Abuse can leave long standing emotional scars. Joining support groups can also help you recover.

Top search
- 6 Ways To Have a Natural Miscarriage
- Foods That Cause Miscarriage
- Losing Weight In A Week With Honey
- Can You Eat Crab Meat During Pregnancy?
- Grape Is Pregnant Women’s Friend
- 4 Kinds Of Fruit That Can Increase Risk Of Miscarriage
- Tactics for toddlers : A toddler-friendly everyday bag
- Tactics for toddlers : Teaching independence skills, Routines for toddlers
- Tactics for toddlers : Defining your discipline style, Case study of a two and a half year old toddler
- Navigating with a new baby : Preparing the hospital bag, When baby comes home
- Taste Test : Dijon Mustard
- Hazelnut Hearts
- Spiced Chocolate Bread Pudding
- Pear And Blueberry Tatin
- Mocha Pots De Crème
- Navigating with a new baby : Preparing food
Top keywords
Miscarriage Pregnant Pregnancy Pregnancy day by day Pregnancy week by week Losing Weight Stress Placenta Makeup Collection
Top 5
- Cinnamon: A natural treatment for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
- 5 Tips for Safe Exercise During Pregnancy
- Four Natural Ways Alternative Medicine Can Help You Get Pregnant (part 2)
- Four Natural Ways Alternative Medicine Can Help You Get Pregnant (part 1)
- Is Your Mental Health Causing You to Gain Weight (part 2) - Bipolar Disorder Associated with Weight Gain