A scuffle between live-in relatives built to a brutal and extreme end in 2017, with a Roanoke man biting off the top joint of his grandfather’s index finger and reportedly swallowing it.
The grandson, Aaron Michael Adams, 23, was charged with both malicious wounding, which can bring five to 20 years in prison, and the more serious count of aggravated malicious wounding, which can carry a life sentence.
At the close of a bench trial in June, a judge found sufficient evidence to convict Adams on one of those offenses but opted to wait to consider his pre-sentence report before deciding which of the two charges was more applicable.
On Monday in Roanoke Circuit Court, Judge Chris Clemens determined Adams was guilty of straight malicious wounding. He sentenced Adams to a six-month jail term plus 10 years in suspended time, and Adams must submit to active supervised probation for a decade.
Sentencing guidelines on Adams’ malicious wounding charge ranged from a little over a year and a half to just under five years. For aggravated malicious wounding, the recommendation would have been between five and 11 years.
“I don’t think this case is appropriate for those guidelines,” Clemens told the prosecutor and defense attorney. “Mr. Adams’ case is a little bit different and I’m treating it a little bit different.”
During the hearing, defense attorney Deborah Caldwell-Bono referenced Adams’ “extensive history of mental health issues,” which reportedly began with seizures when he was a toddler and then included bipolar disorder as he grew older. Adams’ mother testified that around the time of the incident, her son had been taking prescribed medications improperly, but said he has since begun receiving them through injections and is now working with counselors.
“He is doing better than he has in his life,” Caldwell-Bono said.
In her arguments, Roanoke Senior Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Alice Ekirch urged Clemens to find Adams guilty of aggravated malicious wounding, citing the permanent nature of the victim’s injury, which required multiple surgeries to treat and “has really changed every aspect of his life.”
A Roanoke police officer who responded to a call to the victim’s home on Dec. 15, 2017, said a portion of the older man’s left index finger “just above the first knuckle appeared to be missing.” It was not recovered.
As he had in June, Clemens encouraged Adams, the victim and their other family members to continue to work on their differences.