"I feel very let down by the system. This was all sorted out in a back room deal. I feel no satisfaction at all. He has got a slap on the wrist and he will hurt someone else."
It was the 29th of January 2011. A Saturday. Twenty one year old Bethany Decker had just been on vacation for a week in Hawaii with her husband Emile Decker. Emile, an Army National Guardsman, was on leave from military duty in Afghanistan. They had been married for eighteen months and had a one year old son. The son stayed with Emile's parents when Emile was on duty as Bethany was trying to complete her college degree during the day and worked at a restaurant at night so she needed a bit of help with childcare.
When Emile was on leave, Bethany would spend time with him but when he was in Afghanistan, she stayed in an apartment on Orchard Grass Terrace in Ashburn, Virginia, United States. Their marriage wasn't good and Emile was often away for long periods at a time due to work. Emile was aware that Bethany was having an affair with a thirty year old man, Ronald Roldan. She met Ronald at the Italian restaurant where she worked at night. Their affair had become more of a full time relationship when Emile was working and Ronald even moved in with Bethany in late 2010.
Despite that, Emile still wanted to try to make his marriage work and they both went on vacation to Hawaii. When Emile and Bethany got back from their vacation on the 28th of January, she stayed with him at his parent's house in Maryland that night. Emile saw her the next morning before she went back to her apartment. Ronald said that he saw her that afternoon at the apartment. Bethany called the restaurant where she worked that afternoon to set up her work schedule for the following week. None of her family or friends saw her after that date. She didn't attend college or go to work.
Bethany was only reported missing some three weeks later, on the 19th of February. Emile had returned to Afghanistan on the 4th of February and Bethany would normally go to the airport with him. But she wasn't there that time.
Bethany's mother,Kim Nelson, was becoming increasingly concerned about the whereabouts of her daughter. She had tried to contact her daughter a number of times but had not heard from her in three weeks. She received a number of strange phone calls and Bethany's friends received Facebook messages that seemed unusual and fake. Emile received an email from Bethany's account but he did not believe it was sent by Bethany.
Kim's parents lived near Bethany's apartment in Virginia so on the 19th of February Kim asked them to call to the apartment to see if anything was wrong. When they arrived at the complex, they found Bethany's car parked at an angle and it had a flat tire. They had driven past the week before and did not notice the car there.
They knocked on the apartment door but there was no answer. Bethany was reported missing to the police.
Police went to the apartment. There were no signs of any forced entry or anything unusual. Bethany's bank cards had not been used. Nobody who lived in the area had noticed anything. Bethany's passport and her belongings were still in the apartment.
Kim told police that Bethany was afraid of Ronald. He was the last known person to see her before she went missing. According to Kim, Bethany told her he was controlling and wanted to know where she was at all times. He had threatened her with car keys previously and told her he would use them to cut her open. Kim tried to make her leave but Bethany discovered she was pregnant. At the time of her disappearance she was five months pregnant.
Initially Ronald spoke to police. He told them that he last saw her at the apartment on the afternoon of the 29th of January. But he then declined to assist them any further with the investigation. Police discovered that Ronald had been in trouble with authorities before. He had a pattern of abusing women. But there was nothing to connect him to Bethany's disappearance. He was never charged or named as a suspect but he is a person of interest in the case.
Three years after Bethany disappeared, while her case was still open and unsolved, Ronald came to the attention of police again.
On the 12th of November 2014, police in North Carolina responded to a 911 call. The call was in relation to a domestic violence incident. A woman called Vickey Willoughby shot Ronald twice in self defense. Late that night, as they were watching television, Ronald viciously assaulted her. Vickey said that Ronald grabbed her by her hair and punched her repeatedly with his fist. He bit her and ripped her clothes off. Her neck snapped and broke in two places. He shot her three times in the head and leg. Vickey lost a right eye in the shooting.
She pleaded with him to call 911 but he refused. Despite her savage injuries, Vickey managed to escape with her dog and crawled to a neighbor's house for help. They called 911. Ronald was arrested and charged with assault and attempted murder. But the attempted murder charges were dropped.
In May 2016, Ronald took a plea deal which meant that he would only have to serve between six to eight years if he pleaded guilty to reduced charges:
felony assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury and felony assault inflicting serious bodily injury.
He took the plea deal. When he is released from prison after serving his sentence, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will take him into custody for deportation proceedings to Bolivia.
Vickey felt extremely let down by the system and the plea deal. She wanted to give evidence so that everyone would know just how dangerous and violent Ronald is. She told the Daily Mail Online:
"Another girl is going to get hurt by this man. It's a terrible injustice, not just for me but for the next girl he attacks."
The details of Vickey's assault laid bare the brutality that Ronald is capable of inflicting on a woman. He has a history of abusing women and it is clear that he poses a serious and grave danger to others, especially women. He received a very lenient sentence for the attack on Vickey and unfortunately that means he will soon be free again. Hopefully, evidence can be found that will solve Bethany's case-whether Ronald was involved or not.
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
- Eileen McNamara, the Boston Globe
"The effects of abuse are devastating and far reaching. Domestic violence speaks many languages, has many colors and lives in many different communities."
- Sandra Pupatello
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