A man was sentenced to life in prison by a Hays County jury after being convicted of an assault in which he beat and cut his girlfriend with a belt, a box cutter and rocks.
The jury deliberated in consideration of the assault for 20 minutes and convicted 30-year-old Zane Barton to life in prison Aug. 20, according to a press release from the Hays County district attorney’s office. Barton was arrested May 16 for aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury with a deadly weapon and family violence by the San Marcos Police Department.
The assault occurred near the Wal-Mart in San Marcos where Barton and his girlfriend made camp.
The woman was beaten with a belt buckle and rocks to the face and head. A box cutter was used to cut X’s into the woman’s face and hand and to slit her throat, the release said.
The woman convinced Barton to allow her to seek medical treatment and promised to tell police a stranger committed the assault, according to the district attorney’s office. She walked from a remote bridge near their camp by the Wal-Mart and received a ride to the emergency room from a passing vehicle.
The woman then passed out and survived the evening. An ER physician testified the injuries would have been deadly if they had been off by 1 to 2 millimeters, according to the release.
Brian Erskine, chief prosecutor of the Hays County Family Justice Division, said the woman is now “fine” and suffered no long-term damage.
“Lucky for her, she’s doing very well for herself,” Erskine said. “She got her GED, and she is starting college this fall.”
Barton’s motive for attacking and assaulting his girlfriend was a need for control, Erskine said.
“I think it’s the motive that a lot of abusers have,” Erskine said. “It’s just maintaining the power and control over his victim.”
After returning to her family, the woman identified Barton as the abuser to the police, according to the release.
It is not known if Barton was under the influence of any illegal or controlled substances, Erskine said. Barton was not apprehended until a week after the assault and was not tested.
“They were homeless and transient, and I believe there was alcohol and some substance abuse involved in the relationship, but I have no idea what effect that had upon the assault,” Erskine said. “I know he was assaultive throughout the entire relationship, so I don’t think that was necessarily the reason why.”
In most cases of abuse, there are underlying issues happening, but mainly abusers want to maintain power over their victim, Erskine said. Often, substance abuse exacerbates the force they use.
Barton had previously been incarcerated for participating in a ring of vehicle burglaries, Erskine said.
The Hays County jury concluded that life in prison was appropriate for Barton, according to the district attorney’s office.
“He came within a millimeter of taking her life,” Erskine said. “It’s an incredibly egregious crime. The injuries that he inflicted on her were horrendous. I mean horrific, horrific stuff.”
Erskine said he believes Barton “deserves worse.”
“We did everything that we could,” Erskine said
Hays County has experienced “equally horrific crimes” before, but most people do not live after wounds such these are afflicted, Erskine said.
“Our endeavor is and has always been to be a leader in the prosecution of crimes against women,” the press release said.