By Shavonne Potts
KANNAPOLIS ó A southern Rowan County man will spend more than 12 years in prison for trying to kill his aunt in 2005 and setting fire to a neighbor’s house.
Superior Court Judge Christopher Collier sentenced David Matthew Lovett, 27, to a minimum of 121/2 years and a maximum of 151/2 years.
Lovett will get credit for the time he’s served in jail. He’s been in the Rowan County Detention Center since January 2006.
Instead of going to trial, Lovett pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon with the intent to kill inflicting serious injury, second-degree arson, larceny after breaking and entering and second-degree burglary. He was sentenced Tuesday.
Collier, of Statesville, consolidated the charges, with the attempted murder and assault charges grouped together. For those offenses, Lovett is serving between 135 months and 171 months.
On the charges of burglary, larceny and arson, Lovett will serve 15 to 18 months.
Lovett, standing with defense attorney Thomas Brooke, apologized for his actions.
“I realize that, regardless of the so-called problems I had, it didn’t give me any right to do any of that to my aunt or any human,” he said.
Lovett also apologized to his aunt for the painful memories of that day.
The crime for which he’ll be imprisoned happened on Sept. 23, 2005, the day authorities responded to a call at a home on Pond Court in Kannapolis.
Reports said Lovett argued with his aunt, Rita Regis, and stabbed her in the face and arms with a knife he’d gotten from the kitchen.
He ran from the house and later set fire to a neighbor’s home. Lovett, then 25, was captured by deputies sometime later.
In court Tuesday, psychologists recounted records which say that the 2005 incident is not the first time Lovett tried harm a family member or burn a house.
As a child, the records indicated, Lovett was abused and violent.
Dr. Charles Vance, who treated Lovett at Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh, said Lovett’s New York Social Services records show he attempted to set fire to his baby sister, tried to burn his parents’ home down by setting hot coals from a wood-burning stove on a rug and attacked his grandfather with a butcher knife.
And Dr. Jerry Noble testified the New York child welfare records regarding Lovett’s mental state indicated that he was sexually and physically abused by a babysitter and his mother’s boyfriend. Lovett also asserts he was neglected by his mother.
Noble, a clinical psychologist, testified that Lovett suffers several maladies as a result of childhood abuse.
Noble first evaluated Lovett in 2006 and has seen him four times since the 2005 incident. He diagnosed Lovett with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, borderline personality disorder and an alcohol dependence.
Noble blamed the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on Lovett’s “chaotic upbringing” and said records show an onset of the disorders as early as age 4.
Testimony revealed Lovett was homeless for periods of his adolescence and adult life and spent time in foster care and group homes between ages 7 and 18.
“He’s struggled with issues of abandonment,” Noble said. “He’s been passed around to various family members and homes.”
Noble said the borderline personality disorder makes people very unstable and impulsive. He said Lovett has difficulty controlling impulses and that although Lovett tries to control his anger by bottling it up, he ordinarily expressed anger in a passive way.
The doctor said Lovett exhibited signs of someone who injures or mutilates himself and that he has “had suicidal thoughts but not a lot of actions.”
Noble said that Lovett seemingly didn’t recall the 2005 crime because of a dissociative disorder, which he likened to an alcoholic blackout, but one in which the mind suppresses events.
“It’s like the mind shuts down to protect itself from overwhelming emotions,” he said.
Noble testified that several things led up to the point Lovett stabbed his aunt: He lost his job because he didn’t have a license and adequate transportation; he lost his home; his aunt confronted him about a sexual relationship with a male neighbor; and his aunt’s relationship with another family member.
Lovett told Noble he and that male neighbor had a couple of beers together and Lovett had taken some Lortab, a painkiller. He told doctors that his behavior was inappropriate and that stabbing his aunt was “uncalled for.”
Assistant District Attorney Karen Biernacki noted that Lovett had previously been charged with communicating threats.
Noble said Lovett told him that he had made idle threats to neighbors Amber Walker and Scott Everhart, the couple whose house he burned.
Vance, a forensic psychiatrist who spoke with Lovett during his two-month stay at Dorothea Dix, said he didn’t conclude that Lovett suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“I think it scarred him,” he said of the abuse Lovett suffered as a child. “But I didn’t get the feeling he was haunted by it.”
Vance also testified that Lovett recalled his aunt calling him a “family disgrace” for his sexual relationship with the male neighbor.
Vance said that Lovett had also apparently threatened in early interviews to cut his aunt’s heart out, but Lovett said he didn’t remember saying that.
Rita Regis told Vance that she always tried to be good to her nephew and was always there for him.
Responding to questions from Lovett’s attorney, Thomas Brooke, both doctors said Lovett accepted responsibility for his actions.
Regis wrote a letter that Biernacki, the assistant district attorney, read aloud. The letter said Regis opened her home to Lovett.
“How can you want to take my life?” she asked in the letter.
Regis said the crime made her afraid to leave her home, to trust anyone and that she is constantly reminded of that day every time she looks in a mirror.
Amber Walker and Scott Everhart spoke about the emotional turmoil they’ve been through because Lovett set fire to their home.
Walker said her children have nightmares. Everhart said the crime made him paranoid. He calls home several times a day to check on his family.
“Rita Regis is by far a sweet lady and she didn’t deserve this,” Everhart said.
Contact Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Shavonne Potts