In what Horseshoe Bend Police Chief Fred Mitchell describes as the most gruesome domestic violence case he's investigated, a Horseshoe Bend man pleaded guilty July 12 to multiple counts of rape and sexual assault in Izard County Circuit Court.
"I just hope Heather (Sanders) can move on with her life after this," Mitchell said after Circuit Court Judge Tim Weaver sentenced her husband, Robert L. Sanders, to 54 years in prison.
Sanders, 35, pleaded guilty to one count of rape, a class Y felony; domestic battery in the first degree, a class B felony; and seven counts of sexual assault in the first degree.
Each charge carries an 18-year sentence. The charges will run concurrently.
Sanders' conviction stems from an July 7, 2003, incident in which the Horseshoe Bend Police were notified that Sanders had severely beaten his wife.
Mitchell said when officers arrived at the Sanders' home, Heather Sanders had injuries to her face, legs and arms. He said her head was swollen and her bottom lip was split open.
Heather Sanders initially told police that a woman named Becky had beaten her.
During an examination by doctors at the Calico Rock Hospital, Mitchell said she told police that she lied about the woman beating her and that her husband had been abusing her for some time.
According to the Izard County Clerks office, Sanders told investigators that her husband beat her, stabbed her with a knife in the knee and forearm and burned her with lit cigarettes on her cheeks and arms. She said that he made her perform unwanted sex acts and when she refused he would beat her.
Sanders said her husband would choke her and say, "Die, bitch." She said that her husband told her she wouldn't live to see her 21st birthday, which was July 25, 2003.
Robert Sanders was arrested July 11, 2003, in Batesville after eluding law enforcement officials for two days.
Mitchell said prior to his capture July 11, Sanders had sent Heather Sanders a dozen roses and a letter.
Officials at the Izard County Detention Center said Sanders will be transported to a state correctional facility when a bed becomes available.