PHOENIX — Sara Pitcher will never look at trash bags the same. It's been nearly four years since Shawn Spink, her ex-husband, tried to suffocate her with one.
The trash bag was just one of many weapons he used on that September day back in 2018. Another was the knife Pitcher bought him on their wedding day.
“I can still hear the crunching of the knife going into my skull," Pitcher said.
On Tuesday, nearly four years after the brutal attack, Pitcher finally got her justice. Surrounded by her friends and family, Pitcher watched on as Spink was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years.
“I got justice!” Pitcher exclaimed outside the courthouse in downtown Phoenix. “I definitely am relieved. It definitely gives me some peace of mind.”
Spink, 47, was found guilty on a long list of charges: attempted first-degree murder, sexual assault, kidnapping, three counts of aggravated assault, and unlawful use of means of transportation.
Sara's survival story
Spink's conviction came after a horrific attack and a plan to murder Pitcher. Pitcher had moved from Indiana to Arizona after the two divorced.
She didn't know Spink later followed her there and used binoculars to spy on her at her Phoenix home, even telling her neighbors who noticed him that he was bird watching.
He had been stalking her every move waiting to make his which he did on September 15, 2018, when Pitcher went to take her dog out.
Spink sprayed Pitcher in the face with Raid and shoved her back inside. He zip-tied her wrists, sexually assaulted her and tried suffocating her. A 3.5-hour fight for her life began.
He put a bag over Pitcher's face and then stabbed her. He told her his twisted plan: to kill her then drive off a cliff and end his own life with her body in his car.
“He said that if he couldn't have me, nobody could have me," Pitcher recalled.
Pitcher said as he was trying to suffocate her, she felt her breathing get shallow and she didn't think she could continue fighting him off. His size was nearly double hers. But at that moment, she thought of her mom and she found the strength to keep fighting.
Pitcher convinced him that she wanted to go die with him and he allowed it. They left in Spink's car and Pitcher reminded him of something they used to do when they were a couple - eat ice cream. She convinced him to drive through McDonald's for ice cream before they would die.
Covered in blood in the front seat of her ex-husband's car, she spotted a large group of people gathering in the parking lot.
This was her moment.
“I remember reaching for the door handle. He grabbed my wrist and said, 'I thought you would try something,' and I was able to get my wrist out and I just ran as he was driving towards the people. And I just screamed, 'Help! I was raped!' And so he took off really quick," Sara said.
Police then caught and arrested Spink.
“I knew that my life wasn't over. And I just kept praying that there was going to be, you know, a way for me out," Sara said.
Spink's sentencing delayed after attempted assault on officer
He was supposed to be sentenced last week but missed his hearing after he tried to assault an officer at the Lower Buckeye Jail, according to MCSO.
On Tuesday, he was escorted into his sentencing hearing by five MCSO sheriff's deputies who surrounded him for the duration of the hearing.
Pitcher addressed the court with an emotional statement, recalling the physical and emotional scars Spink has left her with. She is blind in one eye after he stabbed her in the face.
She said the torture has continued and said she has received threats from Spink in jail.
During Spink's statement to the judge, he said he regrets his actions but claimed his attack was not pre-meditated.
Prosecutors recalled a long list of disturbing Google searches Spink made more than a month before the incident, including how to be innocent by reason of insanity and how to [expletive] a girl who is resisting.
Spink's defense attorney pushed the judge for a mitigated sentence. He said Spink had a difficult upbringing with traumatic experiences and has significant mental health problems.
Prosecutors argued had Sara not fought for 3.5 hours, she would have been killed and she deserves to live the rest of her life without looking over her shoulder.
Spink sentenced to life in prison
Judge Roy Whitehead issued a life sentence with the possibility of release after 25 years. He said the case was troubling due to the nature of the crimes and explained his sentence was meant to protect Pitcher and society going forward.
“I'll be back here in 25 years to tell my story again," Pitcher said.
Now that this chapter has closed, Pitcher is focusing her efforts on domestic violence awareness. She's organizing a walk in Apache Junction on October 15th. You can find more information and register here.
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