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Man who beat girlfriend faces a harsher sentence

John Colson

A former Snowmass Village man may be sent to prison today for beating up his girlfriend, after a court official changed his mind about how the man should be punished for his crime.

Probation officer Kyle Miller originally recommended that Mark Westenburg receive a two-year “work release” sentence, meaning he would be allowed out of jail to work, along with a term of probation.

But in a letter submitted to Judge J.E. DeVilbiss on March 1, Miller recommended that Westenburg, 38, be sent to state prison for three years and ordered to undergo psychological treatment.

Westenburg pleaded guilty last November to charges of “menacing,” a class five felony, and third-degree assault, a class one misdemeanor.

Under state sentencing guidelines, he faced a possible sentence of three years in prison on the menacing charge, which could be raised to six years if the judge finds the case to be in the “extraordinary risk” category.

Westenburg already has been sentenced to 18 months in jail on the assault charge, which is the maximum term allowed under ordinary state sentencing rules. The judge decided to delay sentencing on the other charge while Westenburg underwent psychological evaluation concerning his history of domestic violence.

The charges arose from an incident last September, when Westenburg got into a fight with the woman he was living with at the time. According to police reports and court testimony, he put her through a night of terror.

The woman told the court what she went through that night, starting with Westenburg dragging her by the hair across the floor of her Woody Creek apartment. He then proceeded to pummel her and kicked her in the head, bashed her head against the floor and, at one point, picked up a switchblade knife and hurled it into the wall directly above her head, she told the court.

Although she did not tell police at the time, the woman testified in court that Westenburg also forced her to have sex with him twice that night.

Westenburg took her to the hospital the next day for treatment of her injuries. The woman testified that she arranged for a friend to pick her up at the hospital and take her to the friend’s house as a way to get away from Westenburg.

Miller changed his sentencing recommendation after hearing reports from two other women whom Westenburg is said to have terrorized and assaulted during earlier relationships.

A report in Westenburg’s court file, from the Alpine Counseling Center in Glenwood Springs, quotes Westenburg as referring to “a very violent situation” with a 16-year-old girl, when he was 16 years old himself. According to the report, Westenburg said the girl “got hurt bad” and that he was arrested over the incident.

“In general, what Mark reported to me was consistent with what the victims reported,” the counselor concluded, “except he minimizes the number of incidents, the severity of the violence, and he tends to blame the victims for the assaults.”

All three of the women who have accused Westenburg of assaulting them have described bouts of prolonged violence and reported being terrified he would kill them.

“I was thinking he’s going to kill me and throw me in the river to cover things up,” his former girlfriend told the counselor who evaluated Westenburg.

In court, the women Westenburg is accused of assaulting said they were afraid he would come after them if he was set free. That testimony apparently contributed to the judge’s decision to put Westenburg in jail immediately rather than let him remain free while undergoing psychological testing.

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Posted: Monday, March 5, 2001


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