One woman accused him of beating her so badly that her pelvic bone was broken, leaving her disabled. Another said he choked her until she couldn’t breathe.
In both cases, Christopher Pelkey, 35, was charged with multiple felonies, including aggravated assault — a crime that carries a maximum prison term of 10 years in Maine, where the alleged attacks occurred. In both cases, Pelkey pleaded guilty to misdemeanor crimes and was sentenced to little jail time, court records show.
Now Pelkey is headed back to court, accused by another woman who said he choked her, assaulted her son and threatened to kill them both with a hammer, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by NBC News.
“He almost killed me,” said Andrea Stevens, who has not previously spoken out about the charges, which include aggravated assault, domestic violence criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon and domestic violence assault. “He really needs to serve his time for what he’s done.”
The cases highlight the challenges prosecutors face in litigating crimes that are often hidden from public view — and the grim reality some abuse survivors still endure.
Francine Garland Stark, the executive director of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, said that she wasn’t familiar with the specifics of the allegations but that the details appeared similar to some of the most serious domestic violence cases — those that end in death.
She pointed to a 2021 report that reviewed 20 years of homicides in the state and found that more than half of the perpetrators had abused more than one partner.
“That kind of history is a red flag,” Stark said. “We need to know that people who commit domestic violence against multiple people multiple times are really dangerous people, and we have to take them seriously.”
Prosecutors expect to learn Thursday whether Stevens’ case will go to trial. Chelsea Lynds, the assistant district attorney prosecuting the case, said she made Pelkey an offer of three years in prison to plead guilty to one felony but withdrew it after he balked.
Pelkey has been held in lieu of $10,000 bail at the Penobscot County Jail, Lynds said. He hasn’t entered a plea. Pelkey’s lawyer didn’t respond to a request for comment.
In an interview, Pelkey’s mother, Jane Arbuckle, denied many of the allegations. “I can tell you my son is not perfect,” she said. “He has a mouth on him that is horrible. But he’s a protector. I’ve never seen him be violent with anyone.”
A connection right away
All of the three women said their relationships with Pelkey developed quickly. Stevens and Persis Smith both said they met him on Facebook. Navy veteran Ashley Alaimo, who told authorities Pelkey choked her until she couldn’t breathe, said she met him at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post.
“I immediately felt a strong connection with Chris,” Alaimo, 37, wrote in a nine-page sworn statement to the police department in Orono, the college town north of Bangor, where the couple lived in 2015. “He almost seemed too good to be true.”
“We fell in love so quickly and there was no fear in my heart about being with him,” she wrote.
But within a few months, Pelkey had become violent, Alaimo wrote. She wrote that during one alleged confrontation, she tried to leave their apartment but that he grabbed her and dragged her down the hallway.
“I tried everything to get away, and had even tried to use my hands to grab on to the beginning of the wall but ended up leaving claw marks,” she wrote.
When police were summoned a week later after another alleged confrontation, an officer noted the claw marks in an arrest affidavit obtained by NBC News.
During that second incident, on Sept. 13, an argument prompted Pelkey to leave. Alaimo deadbolted the door behind him, according to a police report.
When Pelkey returned minutes later and Alaimo refused to open the door, he scaled the building’s fire escape, broke the kitchen window and cornered her, she told officials, according to the report.
Alaimo told police he knocked her to the ground and pressed on her throat “hard enough that she was not able to breathe at all,” according to the report.
Alaimo wrote in the statement that Pelkey grabbed a piece of glass from the window and threatened to kill her.
In the moments that followed, Alaimo tried — and failed — to escape through a bathroom window, according to the report. Pelkey allegedly choked Alaimo repeatedly and covered her nose and mouth with his hand, according to the report.
“When he let go enough that she could breathe she said she screamed the loudest she has ever screamed in her life,” an officer who interviewed Alaimo wrote in the report.
Pelkey fled, the report says, and Alaimo called 911. When he returned to the apartment, he denied breaking the window and said he’d never harmed Alaimo, according to the affidavit.
Alaimo attacked him, Pelkey told authorities, and he’d blocked her from leaving because she’d been drinking, according to the affidavit.
The officer who wrote the affidavit described Pelkey’s account as “not a fluid timeline” and said he “gave various bits of information but did not appear to be telling the whole truth.”
Pelkey was arrested and later indicted on five charges, including two felonies — aggravated assault and domestic violence criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon — according to an indictment filed that November in Bangor District Court.
Two years later, Pelkey pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors and was sentenced to 10 months in jail and one year of probation, according to a judgment filed in superior court. All but 30 days of the jail sentence was suspended.
Alaimo said she was floored when she learned of Pelkey’s punishment.
“It wasn’t appropriate at all,” she said in a text message. “He shouldn’t have had an opportunity to do it again! Let alone to multiple women.”
The former prosecutor who handled the case for the Penobscot County district attorney didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Christopher Almy, a prosecutor with the district attorney’s office, wasn’t familiar with the charges or the agreement but said domestic violence cases remain difficult to prove.
In many cases there are no witnesses, he said, and while there might be medical evidence, that doesn’t guarantee a successful prosecution.
“You can read what you want in an affidavit,” Almy said. “But when you put a victim on the stand and you ask them what happened, we have to make a decision as to whether or not a jury is going to believe them.”
No red flags
Smith, who said Pelkey’s violence left her disabled, said their courtship was also brief. They met in April 2017, the month he had been sentenced in Alaimo’s case. He never disclosed the charges, Smith said, and she saw no red flags before their engagement a few months later.
Smith, then a director of admissions at a nursing home, said Pelkey became increasingly abusive — physically, emotionally and verbally — after she became pregnant with their daughter.
“I thought I loved my husband, so I stayed,” said Smith, 36. “That’s ultimately what almost got me killed.”
A judge who later granted Smith a protection order described her allegations against Pelkey as some of the most “severe domestic violence that he’d seen since taking the bench,” recalled Smith’s lawyer at the time, Caleb Gannon.
Gannon, who said he often handles protection orders, said there wasn’t much space between the abuse Smith described and a domestic violence homicide.
The alleged violence escalated in March 2021, according to a divorce judgment provided by Gannon that described Smith’s accusations as “compelling and very credible.”
Smith was on bed rest from a recent surgery, the judgment says, when Pelkey choked her until she urinated herself.
She fell from the bed, the judge wrote, breaking her pelvic bone and damaging several ligaments — an event that required her to go on disability.
Two days later, Pelkey was arrested after a confrontation with Smith’s father over the alleged abuse, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by NBC News. Smith was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where a forensic exam found she suffered “extensive damage” and showed clear signs of strangulation, the affidavit says.
Pekley was charged with four felonies — aggravated assault, domestic violence assault, domestic violence terrorizing and criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon. During an interview with authorities, Pelkey confessed to choking Smith, the affidavit says.
Less than four months later, Pelkey entered an Alford Plea — or a guilty plea that allows defendants to assert their innocence — on one misdemeanor count of domestic violence assault. He was sentenced to two years’ probation and had all but 10 days of a roughly six-month jail term suspended, according to a judgment filed in Belfast District Court.
Smith said she was furious — and fearful of what Pelkey might do while on probation.
Kent Murdick, an assistant district attorney in Waldo County, said the charges were dropped after a full investigation that looked at medical records, witness statements and other evidence.
“We could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt the four charges that were dismissed,” he said, declining to comment further.
‘These girls are working against me’
A month after his arrest in Smith’s case, Pelkey met Stevens, a certified medical assistant, on Facebook. He was kind and charming, she said, and up front about his criminal past.
Pelkey told her: “These girls are working against me,” recalled Stevens, 38. “He really tried to put the blame on both of them.”
Stevens wasn’t sure what to make of the allegations but said she “tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, like I do with everyone.”
In June 2022, Smith was divorcing Pelkey, and the judge in that case tore in to him.
In a 14-page judgment, Judge Eric Walker noted that Pelkey had denied being abusive and did not even admit to pleading guilty in the case involving Smith — “instead stating he took an Alford Plea.”
“Plaintiff’s denial of his own actions is disturbing, particularly given that Plaintiff is said to be engaging in a Certified Batterer’s Intervention Program,” Walker wrote.
The judge awarded Smith sole custody of their daughter and barred Pelkey from all contact with her — a restriction that Gannon described as rare and reserved only for cases with “pretty serious abuse.”
The judge’s decision surprised Stevens, who had been with Pelkey for more than a year at that point. But she said their relationship had already turned abusive, adding: “I could only imagine what he put those kids through.”
Stevens told officials six months later that she had fled their trailer with her 4-year-old son after Pelkey allegedly assaulted the boy and prevented her from seeing him, according to an arrest affidavit.
She alleged that Pelkey choked her until she couldn’t breathe, ripped out her hair and threatened to rape her and kill her and her son with a hammer, the affidavit says. She told officers he tore off her pants and threw her to the floor while using slurs and expletives, the affidavit says.
The alleged violence erupted after he accused her of acting inappropriately with his teenage son — an allegation she described to authorities as blackmail — and an argument over his probation in Smith’s case, according to the affidavit.
When authorities found Stevens, she was running down the street sobbing and cradling her son, who was shoeless, the affidavit says.
“Andrea seemed scared and hysterical,” an officer wrote.
The officer noted that Stevens had a hairless spot on her head and a mark on her neck that he photographed, the affidavit says. He later found the yellow hammer that she said Pelkey had threatened her with.
The officer cast doubt on Stevens’ allegation that Pelkey kicked her son in the face earlier that day, saying an injury to the boy’s lip didn’t seem recent. (A judge who later granted Stevens a protection order said that he found her allegations credible and that Pelkey had punched her son, according to the order.)
In an interview with police, Pelkey denied the assaults and asserted that Stevens “was injuring herself to frame him,” the officer wrote.
The officer arrested Pelkey, calling his explanation “unreasonable.”
In March, Pelkey was indicted on four felony charges, including aggravated assault and domestic violence assault. His probation in Smith’s case was revoked, Murdick said.
Stevens, Smith and Alaimo now hope that Pelkey will receive a punishment that matches his alleged crimes.
“For the system to let it get to this point, this is blood on their hands,” Smith said. “The pattern is there. He’s shown he won’t stop.”