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Why you should verify the submissive remembers the safe words before and during scenes.

And another reason why the Dominant, the one in control, has to be able to read the signs and signals and not just depend upon the use of safe words.

Published Tuesday, July 3, 2001, in the Akron Beacon Journal.

Woman pleads guilty in Stark

Ex-spouse is charged with failing to report man's alleged violence

Beacon Journal staff writer

MASSILLON: A 42-year-old woman whose ex-husband is accused of kidnapping, torturing and raping another woman pleaded guilty yesterday to failing to report the crime.

Tammy J. Erwin of Norton had been charged with complicity to felonious assault, but a Stark County grand jury indicted her on a lesser misdemeanor charge instead.

She appeared in Massillon Municipal Court yesterday and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, which were suspended, and ordered to pay a $250 fine and court costs.

The 38-year-old victim was present and agreed with the sentence, court officials said.

Jackson Township police said Tammy Erwin and her three children came into her ex-husband's Malabu Avenue home at some point during the alleged June 11 assault.

The children -- ages 16, 13 and 11 -- stayed downstairs while Tammy Erwin went upstairs and asked her ex-husband, Kevin L. Erwin, to leave with her. He refused. However, she failed to call police for help.

Kevin Erwin is charged with kidnapping, rape and felonious assault.

Prosecutors allege that Kevin Erwin held his victim captive for about eight hours while he branded her with the letter K, bit her several times, shocked her genitals and threatened her with a knife. The Akron Beacon Journal generally does not name the victims of sex crimes.

Kevin Erwin claims the victim willingly signed a contract the day before the assault, promising she would be his sex slave, according to court documents.

The contract states that she would divorce her husband and marry Erwin, who would be allowed to punish her with a whip, riding crop or electrical stimulation whenever he desired.

The victim, who met Erwin over the Internet, signed the paper under duress, said Assistant Stark County Prosecutor Jennifer L. Dave.

Erwin told authorities that the contract would clear him of any wrongdoing, Dave said. He is scheduled for trial July 23 in Stark County Common Pleas Court.

John Higgins can be reached at 330-478-6000 (Ext. 12) or 1-800-478-5445 or jhiggins@thebeaconjournal.com


Published Tuesday, August 7, 2001, in the Akron Beacon Journal

Woman tells court of torture and rape

Stark defendant denies assault, says live-in lover agreed to have rough sex

Beacon Journal staff writer

CANTON: The alleged victim doesn't deny that she and Kevin Erwin had kinky sex, using whips and assorted toys to pleasure each other.

She says, though, that rough play turned to torture one day two months ago when she forcefully was tied to a bed, raped, beaten, bitten, branded with the letter K, threatened with a knife and blowtorch, burned with a lighter and shocked in several parts of her body with an electrical device.

"It felt like screws digging through your bones," the 38-year-old fast-food restaurant manager testified yesterday, describing the pain from the electrical current that shot through her foot, genitals, shoulder and underarm. "It was a constant assault. The more agony I was in, the happier he was. He wanted to hurt me. He said he was going to kill me."

Erwin faces charges of kidnapping, rape and felonious assault. His trial began yesterday in Stark County Common Pleas Court.

"My mind couldn't comprehend how he could go from loving me to that," said the woman, whose name is not being used because the Akron Beacon Journal generally does not identify victims of alleged sex crimes.

Assistant Stark County Prosecutor Jennifer Dave said in her opening statement that Erwin tortured the woman. Erwin's lawyer, Jeffrey Haupt, told the jury that the pair willingly had rough sex and she did not act like a distressed woman or immediately seek medical help the day of the alleged assault.

Haupt also mentioned a contract that Erwin claims the woman signed the day before the incident in which she promises to be his sex slave and allow him to whip and shock her.

The woman and Erwin, a 43-year-old maintenance worker, first became acquainted last summer over the Internet. Both were married with children, but that didn't stop them from exchanging hundreds of e-mails between her home in Jackson Township and his in Norton.

In their messages, the woman said they shared their sexual desires and complained of having rocky marriages and unfulfilling sex lives.

They finally met in the fall of 2000 at a restaurant in Green. That led to many encounters -- at hotels, parks and Amish country.

"I just fell in love so fast and so hard with him," she testified.

The e-mails and dates continued. They gave each other pet names. She was "Azure" for her blue eyes; he was "Imas" -- short for "I am as I am."

In March, the two left their families and moved into a Jackson Township apartment.

The woman said they bought sex toys and carried out fantasies. Sometimes the bedroom antics got rough, but she said she never felt threatened.

"I was never afraid," she said.

In the days leading to the alleged June 11 assault, mistrust developed between the couple, she testified.

She said she caught Erwin sending e-mails to a woman nicknamed "Sweet Emotion." Meanwhile, Erwin was starting to believe allegations that she was harassing his estranged family, she said.

"I was so hurt," the woman said. "I told him, "It's over."

The breakup led to an argument with Erwin at her workplace June 10, she said.

After working the evening shift, the woman said she arrived at their apartment around 2:30 a.m. June 11. She said she found a nasty e-mail from Erwin that read: "So this is how you want it to end?"

Around 7:30 a.m., she said Erwin woke her and began to torture her using devices she recognized and others she never had seen. He blurted obscenities, played loud acid-rock music and took photographs of her as he committed his acts, she said.

At one point, Erwin's ex-wife, Tammy Erwin, came to the apartment and asked him to leave with her. When he refused, she left. Because she didn't call for help, she was charged with complicity to felonious assault.

A Stark County grand jury indicted her on a lesser misdemeanor charge. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced last month to 30 days in jail, which were suspended, and ordered to pay a $250 fine and court costs.

Kevin Erwin remains in Stark County Jail. Testimony continues this morning in Judge Lee Sinclair's courtroom with the alleged victim returning to the witness stand.

Andale Gross can be reached at 330-478-6000 or agross@thebeaconjournal.com


Published Wednesday, August 8, 2001, in the Akron Beacon Journal

Man: Partner didn't say stop

Woman never used agreed-upon "safe words," says Stark man accused of rape

Beacon Journal staff writer

CANTON: In Kevin Erwin's world of sadomasochistic sex, "no" doesn't mean no -- "tomato" means no.

The 38-year-old woman Erwin is accused of raping and torturing for eight hours never said "tomato."

"If she said "tomato," I would have stopped," the ex-scoutmaster told jurors yesterday in Stark County Common Pleas Court.

Erwin is on trial for rape, kidnapping and felonious assault. The kidnapping and rape charges carry a potential 10-year prison sentence; the maximum sentence for the assault charge is eight years.

"Tomato" was one of two "safe words" the pair chose early in their mutually adulterous relationship, Erwin testified.

"Pepper" was the couple's yellow-light "slow down" word.

Erwin testified that on June 11 -- the day the woman told police he held her captive in their shared apartment, raped her, electrically shocked her, branded her with an iron and threatened her with a blowtorch -- she never said "tomato" or "pepper."

He said he shocked her a few days earlier, but not on that day, and denied that he ever branded the woman, whose name is not being used because the Akron Beacon Journal generally does not identify victims of alleged sex crimes.

The sex that day was consensual, Erwin testified, as indicated in a contract he says she voluntarily signed the day before the incident agreeing to be his sex slave.

His alleged victim testified yesterday that although their sex life was kinky, she always trusted Erwin to stop until the day he didn't, even after she begged him to stop.

Erwin choked back tears denying her allegations.

"I am 43 years old. I have never hurt a woman or anybody in my life like I'm accused of doing here," he said.

He said news of his arrest forced him to resign from his position as a volunteer for the last seven years with the Boy Scouts of America Great Trail Council, which covers the Akron area.

Erwin, a scoutmaster and father of three, said he was given a 2000 Award of Merit and never exposed children to his bedroom activities.

"The Boy Scouts of America definitely does not need this publicity," he said.

Erwin said the couple met on the Internet late last year after he placed a personal ad looking for a submissive woman. He said he made it clear that he wanted more than an anonymous Internet relationship.

"I don't read a book when I'm hungry, I get something to eat," Erwin said.

They traded hundreds of e-mails, met in motels and parking lots, and within a few months, both had left their spouses of 18 years each to live together in a Jackson Township apartment.

They chose the safe words -- "tomato" and "pepper" -- and started out slowly, with a little over-the-knee spanking. They graduated to tying with ropes and "fire and ice" titillation with burning candles and ice cubes. Erwin testified that the couple never used the safe words.

He said the electric shock was an experiment they tried June 6 with an electric line tester that could deliver a mild shock similar to what someone might get from a model railroad.

"We were always talking and looking for new sensations, " he said. "It will give you a tingle, but it won't hurt you."

He said she didn't like it, so he didn't use it again.

The morning of June 11, he said, he came home, showered, and when he climbed into bed she awoke, fondled him and they had sex that escalated to sadomasochism.

Her version is that he awoke her and started torturing her immediately and continued for most of the day until she left for work at a fast-food restaurant.

Co-workers encouraged her to report Erwin to the police. She was examined by a paramedic and encouraged to go to the hospital, but refused, according to testimony yesterday.

A social worker she saw after the incident, Dana Mears, testified that she believed the alleged victim suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

However, a defense expert specializing in psychosexual behavior, Victoria Codispoti, testified that what looked from the outside to be abuse made sense within the world of sadomasochism.

"This is consensual. People choose to do this," Codispoti said.

She said contracts are common and that examples are available on the Internet. Such contracts outline ground rules and often include safe words that halt the sex play. Those words usually aren't obvious ones such as "no" or "stop."

Erwin will face cross-examination today. The jury likely will receive the case for deliberation this afternoon. John Higgins can be reached at 330-478-6000 (Ext. 12) or 1-800-478-5445 or jhiggins@thebeaconjournal.com


Published Thursday, August 9, 2001, in the Akron Beacon Journal

Jury deliberating in Stark rape-kidnap trial

Panel will decide whether woman agreed to what she described as hours of torture

Beacon Journal staff writer

CANTON: Jurors in the Kevin Erwin rape trial witnessed a show-and-tell from both attorneys involving a branding iron, a blowtorch and an ink pad yesterday.

The 43-year-old former Scoutmaster also faces charges of kidnapping and felonious assault related to a June 11 incident in a Jackson Township apartment.

Jurors deliberated about two hours yesterday and are expected to resume this morning.

Erwin described the eight hours with his former live-in girlfriend as consensual sex, but she called it rape and torture. She says Erwin branded her inner thigh with the letter K.

Her name is not being used because the Akron Beacon Journal generally does not identify victims of alleged sex crimes.

On Tuesday, Erwin testified that he used the brand for stamping wooden ornaments on wind chimes and that it could not have made the mark, which was photographed after she reported the incident to Jackson Township police.

Jennifer L. Dave, assistant Stark County prosecutor, inked the brand yesterday and pressed it against an assistant's arm to show the jury a mark that was similar to the woman's burn mark.

Defense attorney Jeffrey Haupt got some laughs by igniting the blowtorch and suggesting the bailiff offer his forehead for demonstration purposes.

He said an ink mark and a burn mark are different and spent much of his closing argument criticizing what he called the prosecutor's "side show."

Haupt told jurors that Erwin's actions looked like abuse by outsiders, but made sense given the lifestyle the pair had chosen.

"This is their thing," Haupt said. "This is a bizarre couple."

Erwin testified again yesterday that from their first meeting they established "safe words" such as "tomato" and "pepper" to stop or slow sex play if it got too rough, and the woman never said "tomato" on June 11.

Dave asked him why these words never showed up in hundreds of e-mails exchanged since the couple met over the Internet late last year, or in excerpts from journals they wrote for each other's benefit.

The woman has since returned to her husband of 18 years. Erwin testified that a divorce from his wife of 18 years is on hold because of the trial.

Dave told jurors in her closing argument that even within the context of a sadomasochistic relationship, Erwin went too far.

She showed the jury photographs of the woman's bruises and pictures Erwin took himself as he used a sex toy on her.

The woman's tearful expression in the photos was not that of someone enjoying herself, Dave said.

Jurors were given various pieces of evidence to consider, including photographs, a bull whip, riding crops, ropes, chains, the branding iron and the blowtorch.

They will also consider a contract allegedly signed the day before the incident that made the woman Erwin's "sex slave" for life.

John Higgins can be reached at 330-478-6000 (Ext. 12) or 1-800-478-5445 or jhiggins@thebeaconjournal.com


Man acquitted in rape, torture case

Repository staff writer

CANTON — Kevin Erwin left court under the relief of four not guilty verdicts.

His one-time girlfriend and kinky sex partner is left wondering why their bedroom antics were a factor in what she sees as clear-cut abuse.

And jurors, who’d heard three days of graphic testimony about bondage and sadomasochism, left in search of a hot shower.

The Stark County Common Pleas Court panel acquitted Erwin of all charges Thursday, finding the couple’s penchant for ropes, whips and chains falls closer to consensual sex than the sadistic torture she claimed.

"If (the charge) had been sexually deviant behavior, it would have been a 10-second verdict," said David Poole of Canton, jury foreman.

The woman, who met Erwin on the Internet and moved in with him following a whirlwind computer courtship, claimed he took their dominant-submissive relationship too far June 11.

She testified she was bound, bitten, burned, branded and raped with a sex toy during an eight-hour session.

Erwin, 43, admitted some acts occurred but maintained it was part of the escalating games they had been enjoying since the woman answered his on-line ad for a submissive mate.

The woman never said their code words for slowing or stopping: "Pepper" or "Tomato," he said. He said she signed a sex slave contract the day before his arrest, something he tried to show police as proof of his innocence.

The panel of six women and six men closely examined the legal definitions of rape, kidnapping and felonious assault during four hours of discussion before unanimously concluding they did not fit, Poole said.

"It was hard to believe what either one of them said," the foreman said.

"We took their, ah, type of lifestyle into account. (We) felt the things that transpired here were probably everyday things to them. Any day, you could have taken pictures of either of one of them and they’d of had all these bruises and welts."

The woman, who was not present for the verdicts, later said she feels punished for her bedroom experimentation.

"It’s unfortunate they allowed consensual, kinky sex to get in the way of abuse. There’s definitely a difference."

The trial in front of Judge Lee Sinclair featured a blow torch, riding crops and other sex toys taken from the couple’s Malabu Avenue NW apartment in Jackson Township.

It was a sordid experience, one that left Poole yearning for a good scrub with bleach after each day.

"This was a lifestyle that all of us were ignorant of up until this point and would have rather remained ignorant of," he said.

Erwin sighed following the verdicts. The 6-foot, 4-inch, 260-pound man later grabbed his smaller attorney in an appreciative hug.

He glanced back at his sobbing wife and daughter before being taken back to Stark County Jail to deal with the paperwork needed for his release.

His wife, Tammy Erwin, was previously convicted of a misdemeanor charge of failing to report a crime. She was given probation.

It was Erwin’s estranged wife who hired Haupt to defend her husband. The couple plan to finalize their divorce soon, Haupt said.

Erwin had faced up to 38 years in prison if convicted.

The former Norton resident hopes to return to his electrical maintenance job and reclaim his life, Haupt said. The bad publicity forced him to resign his longtime role with Akron-area Boy Scouts.

Haupt said Thursday’s verdicts fly in the face of long odds and represent his most satisfying moment in 17 years in law.

"Wow. Oh, my goodness. Wow," he said.

"The jury listened and followed the law. That’s all you ask."

While investigators saw the woman’s marks and listened to her accusations, they failed to explore the couple’s alternative lifestyle or hundreds of electronic computer messages to shed light on their true, alternative relationship, he said.

"When they first saw that, they didn’t understand there are differences" in people, Haupt said. "They didn’t present the e-mails. That is what was different. The e-mails told about their lives."

Haupt said he went to Jackson Township police in hopes of sharing the journals and messages before Erwin’s charges went before a grand jury. The offer was rebuffed.

Testimony from psychosexual behavior specialist Dr. Victoria Codispoti on sadomasochism and its progression to increasingly violent acts influenced the jury, Poole said.

Assistant Stark County Prosecutor Jennifer Dave said sexual interest isn’t a factor when deciding whether to pursue charges in cases like these. The office, she said, will continue the mission of protecting victims.

The former girlfriend is stunned by the outcome.

"I went to the courts believing they wouldn’t allow something like this to happen and it did."

She has since returned to her husband’s home.

She said she knew going to authorities would be difficult and embarrassing, but saw it as the right thing. She now fears others in a similar situation will be less likely to come forward.

Jurors did not reach an immediate decision.

They discussed Erwin’s alleged use of the "K" brand to scorch her skin, the woman’s seemingly normal vital signs when she was examined by paramedics and other elements, Poole said.

Erwin denied using the brand. He did admit biting the woman and using a shock device but said it was days earlier.

The "K"-like mark on the woman’s leg likely would have been deeper or smeared if Erwin was in such a rage and the woman’s struggling, Poole said.

The foreman said he was disappointed Sinclair could not order them into counseling.

"I think the one prevailing theme of our discussions was these people consensually do this type of behavior in their bedroom," he said. "And this is the result of that type of behavior."

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