Three weeks before Yvette Cade was doused with gasoline and set on fire, allegedly by her estranged husband, a Prince George's County judge dismissed the protective order Cade had against him, despite her objections that he was violent.
During a Sept. 19 hearing, she told District Court Judge Richard A. Palumbo that her husband was intimidating and had been violating the protective order, according to an audio recording of the proceeding.
She said she had pictures of some property he had vandalized. "I want you to look at these pictures because I don't want him to continue," she said.
Palumbo suddenly interrupted her, saying, "Uh, this case is dismissed."
The judge was going along with the request of Roger B. Hargrave, who had written a letter to the court saying he wanted the order lifted so he could go to marriage counseling with his wife.
Hargrave, 33, of Temple Hills is now charged with attempted first-degree murder and assault. He was being held without bond after a bail review hearing yesterday. Cade is still hospitalized.
On Monday morning, Hargrave walked into the crowded T-Mobile store in Clinton where Cade was at work, threw gasoline on her and set her on fire with a match, police said. Half her upper body, including her entire face, suffered third-degree burns, the most serious level. A customer in the store extinguished the fire with a towel.
At the Sept. 19 hearing, which lasted about 10 minutes, Cade, 31, told the judge she wanted "an immediate and absolute divorce," according to the recording.
"I'd like to be six-foot-five," Palumbo responded. "But that's not what we do here. You have to go to divorce court for that."
In July, she had applied for the protective order, writing, "I am afraid that he may cause bodily harm if he has the chance to get near me," according to court records. At that time, Palumbo granted the order.
In August, Hargrave wrote the letter to the judge asking him to rescind it.
"I love my wife and the family that we shared. . . . I fill [sic] that my wife was the best thing that ever happened to me," he wrote.
At that time, he was violating the order by calling her and her family and going by her home and job, according to Cade's relatives.
She had changed her phone number and installed an alarm system in her home to try to protect herself, they said.
Hargrave's letter led to the September hearing, where Cade pleaded her case.
"Your honor, he's violating the peace order. He's contacting my family. He's still contacting me. He's intimidating my daughter, and he's vandalizing other people's property," she told the judge.
She said that her husband was trying to force her to go to marriage counseling and that she did not want to go.
"Well, it might not be a bad idea if you want to save the marriage," the judge told her.
Palumbo did not respond to several requests for an interview yesterday.
At yesterday's bond review hearing, about a dozen of Cade's family members showed up. Several spoke to the court, asking that Hargrave not be released.
Hargrave spoke as well, saying that he is not a threat to society and that he wants to be free from jail so he can help prepare his defense. The defendant, who has a history of arrests and convictions for drug and gun crimes and robbery, said he has never missed a court date.
Cade's older sister, Shereen Jackson, said before the proceeding that Cade's entire face is burned, as well as most of her chest and arms. She breathes through a tube and communicates by blinking.
She said Cade was seeking the help of a domestic abuse shelter to guide her through her separation from Hargrave. He was consistently verbally abusive and would attack her physically, Jackson said.
Hargrave once hit her with a hammer and in recent months had been stalking her, the sister said. The night before he set her on fire, he tried to break into her house, Jackson said.
Cade and Hargrave met through a family friend and married on Halloween in 2001. They were legally separated in December 2004 and were in the process of a divorce. They did not have children together, but each has a child from a previous relationship.
She had worked at the T-Mobile store since it opened about two years ago, and he had several on-and-off jobs, most recently working at a water utility company, Jackson said.
Prince George's State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey said yesterday his office is investigating the criminal case and is also doing a comprehensive review of the civil case.
"I want to make sure we're doing everything we can to make sure women, and sometimes men, in these domestic violence situations are getting the help and guidance they need to get out of them," Ivey said.
Palumbo, a former county prosecutor, served as a state delegate in Prince George's for two decades before being appointed to the bench in 2001.
In November that year, two weeks after he was sworn in as a judge, he was cited by county police for failing to remain at the scene of an accident after the 1998 Mercedes-Benz he was driving hit the back of a county shuttle bus near the Upper Marlboro courthouse.
Six months later, Palumbo was acquitted of leaving the scene of an accident and fined $100 for speeding.
At the Sept. 19 hearing in which he dismissed Cade's protective order against Hargrave, the judge told Cade he could not be her advocate, only an "umpire." But when she said she no longer wanted to be married to Hargrave, he gave her this piece of advice:
"Well, then, get a lawyer and get a divorce," he said. "That's all you have to do."