ST. JOSEPH COUNTY - A 39-year-old Sturgis man will serve 30-60 years in prison for holding his then-girlfriend hostage and abusing her for nearly two weeks.
Circuit Judge Paul Stutesman sentenced Rocky Gardner after Gardner pleaded guilty to first degrees criminal sexual conduct. Gardner also received a 10- 22-year sentence for false imprisonment as a second habitual offender.
Both sentences will run concurrently. He will get credit for 670 days spent in jail since his arrest.
Gardner held his girlfriend captive for 12 days in March 2021. His attorney tried to assert an insanity defense, but he was found competent to stand trial. He entered into a plea bargain with the prosecutor's office in December after a trial on all 14 original charges was scheduled in St. Joseph County Circuit Court.
Assistant prosecutor Deborah Davis dismissed a dozen other charges as part of the plea agreement.
Stutesman required Gardner this week to admit under oath he had restrained the woman and physically and psychologically assaulted her, using both force and coercion for sex.
At times, the victim was tied up by Gardner, but at others, she went with him to his job and remained in his vehicle unrestrained, she testified during a preliminary examination in April. After 12 days, she finally ran from their Sturgis home wearing sweatpants and a shirt, her only clothing.
The woman met Gardner at her work in November 2020 and moved in with him. On March 8, 2021, when Gardner came home, he accused her of having a relationship with another man, pulled out a hunk of her hair, and beat her, according to court records.
Prior storyGardner pleads guilty to 12-day false imprisonment, assault
Gardner tied her up and beat her if she did not cooperate when he sexually assaulted her.
The victim cooperated with Gardner because "I was scared he would find me and hurt me," she testified at a preliminary exam.
Twelve days after the original assault, Gardner left her phone on a dresser while he took a shower. She grabbed the phone and ran barefoot across the street to a gas station.
There, a female bystander took her to Howe, Indiana, where the victim called her mother.
Doctors said the victim had multiple bruises, acute kidney failure and had a fractured spine. LaGrange Police called in Sturgis Police for the investigation.
Subscribe Follow St. Joseph County Courts. Subscribe to the Sturgis Journal
Gardner had prior convictions in 2002 for larceny of a firearm, breaking and entering and delivery of drugs. He also was convicted of assault in St. Joseph County in 2004 and served two years in prison.
This article originally appeared on Sturgis Journal: Gardner sent to prison for holding and abusing his girlfriend for 12 days after almost two years delay in the case