Victim, witness testify about brutal assaults

Attacks occurred in MCG hospital bathroom
Roger A. Bettis, of North Augusta, stands with his defense attorney, Amanda Morris, in an Augusta courtroom. He is accused of trying to rape a 63-year-old woman in a bathroom at Medical College of Georgia Hospital and holding a witness at knife-point.

A witness in the June 2009 assault of a 63-year-old woman inside a Medical College of Georgia Hospital bathroom was momentarily paralyzed with fear entering court Monday when she saw the man she claims held her at knife-point and threatened to kill her.

Tammi Kates leaned on the arm of a victim's assistance advocate as she walked slowly into the Richmond County courtroom to testify against Roger A. Bettis, 29, of North Augusta, who is facing attempted rape, assault and weapon charges stemming from the assault.

As she glanced at Bettis seated a short distance away, Kates cringed and quickly turned away. Later, she would cry and whimper when asked by a prosecutor to point him out in the courtroom.

Monday was the first day of trial for Bettis, who authorities said brutally beat, strangled and tried to rape a woman in the bathroom on the fourth floor of the hospital. The woman was at MCG visiting her terminally ill husband, who died 10 days after the incident.

Bettis was arrested several days after the assault after he fled from police and crashed his car into the Budget Inn on Broad Street. Authorities were pursuing him in connection with a robbery at the Greg's Gas Plus on Atomic Road that night.

In his opening statements, Assistant District Attorney Adam King told the jury that Bettis -- who had been released from a South Carolina prison just two days before the assault -- followed the victim into the bathroom, then climbed over the adjacent stall to attack her.

As she screamed, Bettis choked her, eventually rendering her unconscious, King said.

At some point during the struggle, the victim awoke and Bettis punched her until she passed out a second time, he said.

The woman suffered a concussion, cracked teeth, a dislocated jaw and several ruptured discs in her back. She can't sit for long periods because of the back pain, and she often sleeps in a reclining chair instead of her bed.

It is the emotional scars, however, that have created the most pain, King said.

"The good nights for (her) are the nights where she only wakes up screaming and crying," King said.

She also suffered some memory loss after the incident and has trouble recalling details about her friends, family members and even her husband's funeral. On the witness stand, the victim struggled to remember the date of his death.

She did, however, remember telling her husband about the attack.

"I made a joke of it," she recalled. "There's good news and bad news. The bad news is I got the crap beat out of me, and the good news is I don't remember it."

Her husband became emotional, she said.

"He was crying with tears down his face," she said.

During her testimony, Kates, who was at the hospital attending to her ill sister, said that when she entered the bathroom Bettis held her at knife-point and forced her into a back stall. After waiting for him to leave, she looked out and found the victim lying on the floor.

"When I came out and passed the first stall, all I could see was blood and hair," she said.

In her opening statements, Amanda Morris, Bettis' defense attorney, said the evidence the state will present -- such as surveillance footage of a man entering the bathroom and DNA tests on shorts recovered from Bettis' home, will not be enough to show he was the attacker.

"Fuzzy video, differing scientific reports -- this is not enough to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt," Morris said.

The case will resume this morning.

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