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Player's wife said abuse came often

A police report says Melissa Pittman said there were 30 to 40 times that she didn't report violence by her husband to police.

By ROGER MILLS
Published June 7, 2003

Melissa Pittman, wife of Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Michael Pittman, told investigators that she was subjected to 30 to 40 incidents of domestic violence that were not reported to the police.

If verified, the accusations would paint a picture of repeated domestic problems well before Pittman's arrest May 31 in Phoenix that led to two charges of aggravated battery. He is accused of ramming his Hummer into a Mercedes-Benz carrying his wife, 2-year-old son Mycah and a babysitter.

In police reports obtained Friday by the St. Petersburg Times, arresting officer Troy Hill wrote that Melissa Pittman said "there were approximately 30 to 40 prior domestic violence situations that were never reported to police."

Melissa Pittman's mother, Cathy Mumford, was visiting the family last week, and, according to the reports, told police "she had been present during several domestic violence situations between Michael and Melissa in the past."

And, according to the reports, babysitter Kristina Hegland "related she was afraid of Michael and his family because she had seen too much."

Melissa Pittman's father, Ken Mumford, said in an interview Friday that he was aware of a number of domestic altercations between the couple, but couldn't say the extent.

"I knew there were a few instances, but I don't know if there were that many," he said. "But we love Michael. We're Christian people. We can forgive people as long as they can change."

After interviewing Melissa and Michael Pittman and several witnesses, police arrested Pittman.

Pittman, who returned to Phoenix Thursday after three days of workouts with the Bucs in Tampa, is on three years' probation after two misdemeanor convictions of domestic violence against his wife in 2001.

Prosecutors in that case said, based on the new charges, they intend to ask a Tempe municipal court judge to revoke Pittman's probation, which could lead to jail.

Ed Brennan, a Tampa lawyer recently retained by Melissa Pittman, said neither he nor his client would have any comment on previous accusations of domestic abuse.

"She believes this to be a very private matter to be settled privately and we're not going to comment on those particular statements," Brennan said.

Pittman was unavailable for comment Friday, but in a sworn statement given to police in Phoenix last Saturday he said his wife struck his vehicle, which he said was not moving at the time.

The report obtained by the Times Friday offers specific details leading up to Pittman's arrest.

It says there was a a "heated argument over Michael's infidelity" on May 30.

"Michael stated that the conflict is over the fact that Melissa opened up Michael's cell phone bill and observed phone numbers on the cell phone bill that were not known," the report said. "Melissa called the numbers and found out that they were girls that she did not know."

Police said Melissa Pittman attempted to leave the house in the couple's silver Mercedes with Mycah and Hegland on May 31. Pittman followed in his Hummer, blocked her exit at the gate and drove the Hummer into the passenger side of the Mercedes, pushing it onto the curb and causing damage on the driver's side.

According to the reports, Melissa Pittman said Pittman told her to "get the f--- out of the car" and he called her a "white piece of s---" and a "b----".

Melissa Pittman, 25, returned to the house and again was confronted by Pittman who told her to "get out and get (your) family the f--- out of (my) house," the report said.

Hegland said Pittman, 27, drove his Hummer into the Mercedes to prevent his wife from leaving the subdivision and added, "she thought it was an intentional act because Michael had been threatening to hit them with the car." Hegland told police that while she was not concerned about her safety at the time, she was "concerned about Mycah and that Michael would hurt someone."

The report said Pittman took his son and a car seat out of the Mercedes and put them in the Hummer before continuing an argument with his wife. Hegland, police said, removed the child from Pittman's Hummer, took him into the house, talked with Cathy Mumford and called the police.

Vickie Pierson, a close friend of Melissa Pittman and her mother, was at the house May 31. She said she walked outside and stayed at Melissa's side during the argument because "she did not want Michael to attack Melissa," the report said.

Friday, Pierson said in an interview that she never felt as if she was in danger but said: "He has some issues of anger that he needs to deal with. He has a lot of anger and it certainly is not because of her. It's in his heart."

Pittman said in the report that he parked his Hummer at a 45-degree angle in front of the Mercedes and his wife inflicted the damage to her car when she "tried to exit the gate by squeezing through. When this happened, her front left tire hit the curb and her front right tire and fender wheel hit my front tire and that is why I have damage to my front wheel."

Brennan, Melissa Pittman's attorney, said the Bucs responded Friday to a request for a meeting with his client and he hopes to finalize details of that meeting when Melissa Pittman is in Tampa next week.

Brennan, a divorce lawyer, would not confirm what legal avenues Melissa Pittman will follow.

Linda Osmundson, executive director of St. Petersburg's Community Action Stops Abuse, said spouses frequently stay long-term in abusive relationships.

"It's classic, common (behavior) for the battered wife to hang on," Osmundson said. "It's hard for people to imagine and particularly hard for men to understand. Women invest in our relationships, for richer or poorer, better or worse. A lot of time we can excuse behavior based on stress. We learn in any relationship to forgive and we somehow feel responsible."

Osmundson said historically abuse is about control and different victims will be controlled by a "moving line" of intimidation.

"The other thing people have to understand is that (abusers) aren't abusive all of time," she said. "In between, there are good times and you learn to forgive and forget. Abusers can be very charming."

- Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

[Last modified June 7, 2003, 08:20:35]


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