By Sarah Willets firstname.lastname@example.org
January 24, 2014
LUMBERTON — After nearly four hours of jury deliberation, 33-year-old Samuel Aaron Jacobs was sentenced on Friday to a maximum term of 27 years and eight months in prison for the 2011 stabbing of his then-girlfriend.
“… I think he’s a threat to her and I think he will continue to be a threat to her,” Superior Court Judge Frank Floyd said as he announced the sentence.
The 12-member jury found Jacobs guilty of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury, attempted second-degree kidnapping and felony violation of a domestic violence protective order. He was found not guilty of attempted first-degree murder, which required proof of premeditation and deliberation.
Jacobs was ordered to serve a minimum of 21 years and nine months in consecutive prison terms, including time he has served since he was arrested on Feb. 15, 2011.
Jacobs was accused of trying to force Charlotte Branch into his van with a gun that turned out to be a pellet gun and stabbing her 11 times while she was pumping gasoline at Save More convenience store on Fayetteville Road on the afternoon of Feb. 11, 2011. The incident left her with a punctured lung, a lacerated kidney and wounds to her abdomen, face and hands.
Branch, who was 25 at the time, said she ended her five-year relationship with Jacobs in August 2010 after he put a shotgun to her head and threatened to kill her. He had been bailed out of jail, where he was being held for violating a protective order, two weeks before the stabbing.
Jacobs’ mother, brother, ex-wife and family friends cried tears of relief as Jacobs was deemed not guilty of murder. Across the aisle, Branch, along with about 13 friends and family members, remained stoic.
Assistant District Attorney Joe Osman prosecuted Jacobs, who was defended by Lumberton attorney Carlton Mansfield.
Throughout the four-day trial, Jacobs’ family contended he was in need of mental health treatment.
“I’m not trying to say what he did was right,” his mother, Jessica Mitchell, said. “There were a lot of things going on with Sam at that time.” According to Mitchell, Jacobs was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder and paranoia.
Mitchell said she tried to get help from the state to pay for Jacobs to be treated at either Dorothea Dix Hospital or Cherry Hospital, but that he was kept at Dorothea Dix for less than an hour.
While on the stand, Mitchell apologized to Branch, the only apology Branch said she has received through the ordeal.
“I’m sorry he hurt you, I really am. If I could have stopped him, I would have stopped him and I think you know that in your heart,” Mitchell said.
After Jacobs’ conviction, Branch said she still finds herself afraid of Jacobs.
“I couldn’t get gas by myself,” she said through tears. “The first time I went to get gas by myself I couldn’t get out of the car. I knew if I didn’t, I wouldn’t ever be able to do simple things by myself.”
Branch, a Science teacher at Lumberton High School, said she often locks the doors when she’s the only one at school and never walks to her car alone when she gets off work.
Branch married last April and said she hopes to have children, but is afraid Jacobs’ might harm them. Jacobs has two children with his ex-wife, who he divorced shortly before meeting Branch.
“Had I never started dating him this never would have happened in my life … when he gets out, he’s not going to stop,” Branch said.
Jacobs did not testify or formally address the court, although during the trial he occasionally spoke out of order to the judge.
Branch said she knew about Jacobs’ obsessive compulsive disorder, claiming he “could cut it off” around people he didn’t want knowing about it.
“He’s still got the same mannerisms he had when I was with him. He has not changed,” she said.
Branch’s mother, Debra Branch, who said she has worked with victims of domestic violence for about 25 years, took the stand and spoke of the emotional effect the attack had on her daughter and her family.
“Most of the scars are on the inside of a victim. You don’t see those … Will she learn to live with this? Yes, she will because God kept her alive … but will those scars inside ever be removed? There is no surgery, she will live with that …,” Debra Branch said.
Charlotte Branch has had corrective surgery on her cheek and said she will likely need another procedure to fully remove the scar tissue.