'He Said He Wanted to Fry Me Like Crisco Grease'
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
The scars on Yvette Cade's face and hands were evident yesterday the moment she strode into an Upper Marlboro courtroom packed with her relatives, journalists and courthouse workers.
The expectant, low hum of the crowd faded quickly to silence as Cade took the witness stand before a Prince George's County jury, held up her disfigured right hand and swore to tell the truth. She then calmly described how her estranged husband had told her he would torch her and how he made good on his threat.
When Cade began describing the moment that Roger B. Hargrave lit a match and set her on fire after dousing her with gasoline, it was too much for some of her relatives seated in the front row. They sobbed quietly as Cade dispassionately described the assault and its painful aftermath.
Cade's riveting testimony -- her first public account of the attack-- came on the initial day of Hargrave's trial on attempted murder charges and others. The attack became a national story after it was reported that a District Court judge had dismissed a protective order that Cade had obtained against Hargrave about three weeks before the assault. They were divorced this month.
Prosecutors have a trove of evidence, including a security video of parts of the attack, and several eyewitnesses. But the centerpiece of the state's case is Cade. She was the state's first witness.
Starting at 2:30 a.m. Oct. 10, Hargrave called her 14 times in an hour, Cade testified. She let the answering machine take most of the calls. When she picked up the phone, Hargrave told her that he had been to a nightclub and that he loved her, she said.
"He was talking vulgar about sex and what he wanted to do to me," Cade said. "He said he wanted to fry me like Crisco grease."
Cade, 32, was composed throughout her testimony, which lasted nearly two hours, including cross-examination by Hargrave's attorney. On several occasions, she looked over at Hargrave, 34, who was sitting at the defense table about 15 feet from her. Hargrave never returned her gaze; he kept his head down, looking either at the defense table or documents.
At the invitation of Assistant State's Attorney Ann Wagner-Stewart, Cade stepped down from the witness box to give jurors a closer look at her burns. Cade removed her jacket, revealing deep scars and discoloration on her neck, back and shoulders. She took off her cap, showing where a clump of hair had burned off.
She stepped close to the jury box. Evenly, she said, "My nose is melted on the right side. My mouth is melted to my chin."
Cade pulled up the hems of her slacks, revealing more scars on her legs. Cade returned to the witness stand and continued her testimony without putting her jacket or cap back on.
The attack occurred suddenly, a few hours after Hargrave made his threat to "fry" her, Cade testified.