A University of Maine football player accused of stabbing a man to death in Florida and injuring a woman was involved in a domestic violence incident against the same woman in 2012 that showed classic signs of an abusive relationship, an advocate for domestic violence victims said Friday.
But on Friday, university officials said there was nothing to forewarn that such a terrible event would follow.
Zedric Joseph, 23, is in a Georgia jail awaiting extradition to West Palm Beach, Fla., where he is wanted on charges of murder and aggravated assault.
Police say Joseph, who was on spring break from school, stabbed Ricardy Chery, 23, and Vashti Laurore, also 23, on March 7 and then fled the state. Chery died later at a hospital. It was not clear what relationship Chery had with Joseph or with Laurore, or what preceded the stabbing.
Dr. Robert Q. Dana, vice president for student life at the University of Maine, said that based on the information it had, the university saw no red flags after the December 2012 incident.
“I certainly couldn’t predict a red flag to murder,” said Dana, who does not know Joseph personally.
PLEA AGREEMENT REACHED
Laurore, who was not a UMaine student, was the victim in an incident in 2012 in which Joseph was originally charged with domestic violence assault but reached a plea agreement with prosecutors that led to a conviction for disorderly conduct. He served 48 hours in the Penobscot County Jail.
Laurore told police that Joseph had put his hands around her neck and squeezed so hard he left dark marks on her throat, according to court records.
In a police report written by University of Maine Officer Jason Butterfield, Laurore said that earlier that day, Dec. 17, Joseph woke her at 1 a.m. He was angry and demanded to “know the truth” about her having a relationship with somebody else. She quoted Joseph saying: “If you don’t tell me the truth I’m gonna choke you!” She said she wasn’t having another relationship but he didn’t believe her and started to choke her, the report says.
He calmed down and they went to bed about 5 a.m., she said.
At 11:30 a.m., they were arguing again and Joseph choked her in front of her two children, 3 and 1, according to the report. One shares Joseph’s last name the other does not. Again Joseph choked her, she said, then threatened to kill her and the children if she went to the police. She said he threw the children to the floor.
Laurore said she was screaming for help but nobody came. Joseph eventually let her go to work, she said.
Later police arrived to arrest Joseph.
Joseph told police, “I’m not acknowledging nothing!” according to the police report, and said that he and Laurore would have loud arguments sometimes. He was taken to jail in handcuffs.
Lois Galgay Reckitt, executive director of Family Crisis Services, the domestic violence program for Cumberland County, said Joseph’s behavior that night had hallmarks of an abusive relationship.
“The most common characteristic of the perpetrator is the extreme jealousy often based on nothing,” she said. “Women get accused of that all the time because they’re perceived as property.”
Galgay Reckitt said abusers also will often threaten children because it gives them power over their partner.
“They threaten the kids, which are the most heartfelt part of a women’s life, and threatening to hurt them is worse then threatening her,” she said.
The officer gave Laurore information on filing for a protection from abuse order, but there was no record of one being filed at Bangor District Court.
Florida officials said the details of the allegations against Joseph will be made public once he is returned there to face a judge.
Joseph’s 2012 case was “scrutinized under our student code of conduct,” Dana said. “We also adjudicated the case from a student-athlete standpoint. The student was suspended and required to undergo counseling.” Joseph also participated in a domestic violence program on campus.
Joseph was reinstated and did not “reimplicate himself with us up until this horrendous act,” Dana said. He said he was aware of no similar incidents and that Joseph was a satisfactory student and was poised to graduate.
The university takes the issue of domestic violence very seriously, Dana said. He said UMaine has its own domestic violence program through its Women’s Resource Center and works with the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence and the Spruce Run Domestic Violence Project.
“Domestic violence gets our attention and gets our response,” he said.
SECOND ORDEAL FOR TEAM
UMaine Athletic Director Karlton Creech, who has been on the job for just three weeks, said he will meet with the football team when the players return from spring break.
The team already had endured such as ordeal when former UMaine linebacker turned NFL player Jovan Belcher killed the mother of his child 15 months ago, then killed himself.
“The first thing is to seek an explanation and I’m not sure there is an explanation. It does not characterize our football players,” Creech said.
The two men and the crimes they are accused of “are no reflection on our football program or the athletic department. We’re not recruiting crooks and criminals,” he said. Creech said he plans “ a comprehensive evaluation of all our policies” as they pertain to student-athletes.
Galgay Reckitt disapproves of plea agreements like the one provided Joseph, where domestic assault charges are dropped in favor of a lesser charge.
“The problem is when you plead down a domestic violence as low as they plead them, they don’t go away. The person doesn’t stop the behavior and there’s no penalty essentially for the crime he’s committed,” she said.
Staff Writer Steve Solloway contributed to this report.
David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: