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Woman Allegedly Held At Gunpoint In Home By Estranged Husband, Ex-Lover Over COVID-19 Stimulus Payment
A shattered marriage and alleged love triangle may have led to an armed home invasion targeting an Indiana mother, authorities said.
An Indiana woman was forcibly held at gunpoint by a group of men — including her estranged husband and a former lover — who allegedly attempted to rob her during a botched home invasion last week, police said.
Jacob Baughman, 25, was supposedly livid when he learned his spouse was allegedly withholding his portion of the government stimulus refund related to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a probable cause affidavit obtained by Oxygen.com.
The Indiana father, unemployed and separated from his wife, is accused of violently attempting to collect his share of the stimulus with a mob of men — one of whom was also romantically involved with his wife.
Authorities say Baughman enlisted his ex’s lover, Paul Blankenship, as well as Phillip Guzman, 28, and Christopher Henderson, 33, then imprisoned the woman for several hours at her Lake Station apartment in an attempt to pilfer the government funds.
“Jacob kept telling her that he wanted the money, referring to the stimulus check money,” Lake Station Police Captain David Johnson wrote in a probable cause statement.
Oxygen.com has withheld the victim’s name for privacy.
On April 19, around 1:30 a.m., the four men allegedly stormed the woman’s apartment suite using a stolen key. Upon entry, Henderson closed the woman’s apartment door and announced, “Rise and shine whore,” police said.
The woman, slumbering on the couch, was hauled into her apartment bedroom. Blankenship then snatched her phone and told her to “own up to all her s--t,” the probable cause statement alleged. The intruders cursed at her, blocked the door, and “wouldn’t let her out.”
They ultimately demanded she pay Baughman.
“This is what is going to happen, you’re going to give Jacob your money or I am going to handle you,” Henderson, brandishing a pistol, allegedly told her. “I could end your life. You are lucky Jacob is here.”
Henderson allegedly pointed a semi-automatic pistol at her head, removed the magazine, motioned to the loaded clip, and told her “these are for you.”
The men also allegedly threatened to steal the woman’s car.
“Chris Henderson told her that he was going to give her a month to make it right with her kids,” the affidavit stated.
At one point, Guzman allegedly lunged at Baughman’s wife but was “pushed against the wall,” and restrained by the others.
The men sped off empty-handed in a gold Chevrolet Cavalier shortly before 6 a.m., police said. They warned Baughman's wife not to move.
“I beat b--ches and I’ll be back for you,” Guzman told her, according to the affidavit.
However, the woman escaped and notified authorities.
Baughman, Henderson, Guzman, and Blankenship were arrested shortly afterward. Authorities seized a Smith & Wesson semi-automatic handgun that allegedly matched the description of the pistol used during the home invasion. They were charged with two counts of felony burglary, armed robbery, residential break and enter, and criminal confinement, according to police.
Baughman and his wife split in December 2019, the woman later told detectives. They have three children, she said. She claimed Baughman doesn’t pay child support and that her parents buy the children's “food and clothing.” The woman indicated she intended to file for divorce. However, the Indiana mother, a gas station clerk, explained that her unemployed husband has custody of their children most of the time.
This month, the IRS doled out $1,200 stimulus payments to American taxpayers, millions of whom who have been left jobless following the COVID-19 pandemic's crippling impact on the economy. When Baughman’s wife received hers, he allegedly demanded the full amount. She instead offered him $350 but he allegedly “wanted more," court records show.
“Jacob also admitted to arguing with [his wife] recently about money from the stimulus check and said that he was asking her for $800 to take care of their children,” the arrest affidavit added.
After the woman’s marriage crumbled late last year, she began seeing Blankenship, police said. However, Baughman and Blankenship later discovered their respective relationships with the victim.
“He admitted that he was estranged from his wife… and found out that she was going back and forth between him and Paul Blankenship,” the affidavit stated. “He and Paul Blankenship started talking and discovered that she was lying to both of them about their relationships with her.”
The home invasion was ultimately carried out after Baughman learned of his estranged wife's other relationship, police said.
In a similar case earlier this month, a drunken New Mexico man, "upset" he hadn't qualified for his own stimulus paycheck, allegedly guzzled a four-pack of beer, doused his wife with gasoline, and tried to light her fire, according to a separate criminal complaint obtained by Oxygen.com. The 63-year-old husband was charged with attempted murder, kidnapping, and aggravated battery.
As couples and families grapple with social distancing, isolation, and the quarantine measures, authorities and experts are closely monitoring a potential rise in domestic violence across the country — and the world.
“[The] stay-at-home order has not suspended any laws against intimate partner violence,” Bradley C. Carter, a spokesperson for the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office, told Oxygen.com. “Our office will continue to prosecute these offenders as we have before COVID-19. Do not let this pandemic be their excuse: if you see something, say something.”
Indiana authorities also confirmed a spike in relationship violence cases since the coronavirus shutdown.
Spending countless hours locked inside with romantic partners and spouses, from whom there is little escape, can be a perfect storm for family violence, particularly if the relationship was already tainted by abuse, some experts said.
“It’s an exceptionally challenging time right now — it’s unlike anything that most people have experienced, especially on this broad and deep a scale,” Rachel Teicher, a domestic violence expert, told Oxygen.com. “Anything that was underlying to begin with — abuse, violence, tension, coercion — is only going to be amplified because there’s very little stability or normalcy, and that influences people's behaviors.”
Teicher stated that domestic violence has been known to skyrocket during times of crisis, citing natural disasters as an example.
“The external pressures create more kindling for a fire that was already going to be lit,” Teicher added. “It becomes more unpredictable and oftentimes more dangerous."
Although certain U.S. cities have recorded a drop in domestic violence during the coronavirus lockdown, such data is limited. Accessing victim services during the pandemic can be treacherous — and could could possibly account for scores of unreported incidents, according to the Marshall Project.
Baughman hasn’t yet entered plea in his case. He’ll appear in court this week, officials said. Nicholas Barnes, his court-appointed attorney, wasn’t immediately available for comment on Monday.
All four suspects involved are being held on $75,000 bonds.
“[The case] is at its beginning — at its infancy — and the presumption of innocence applies to Mr. Blankenship, as well as any other criminal defendant,” Susan M. Severtson, Blankenship’s public defender, told Oxygen.com.
Blankenship had a warrant out for his arrest for a prior burglary at the time of his recent booking, prosecutors said. He’s being held without bond on those charges. His formal hearing is set for May 7.
Guzman and Henderson have been assigned public defenders, as well. They’re both scheduled in court on May 1.