A Newton firefighter punched his former girlfriend in the back of her head outside her workplace in Waltham, dragged her to his car, and held her against her will in their apartment until he fell asleep and she was able to escape, prosecutors said.
Lee Gilliam, 33, is being held without bail after pleading not guilty in Newton District Court Friday morning to charges of assault and battery on a family or household member, kidnapping, and threatening to commit a crime.
Gilliam, in handcuffs and wearing a black hooded sweat shirt, showed no emotion as he listened to Assistant District Attorney Susan Harris describe how he told his 21-year-old girlfriend: “I will kill you, and no one will find you. I will throw you in the woods.” The victim had moved out of the apartment they shared the day before the alleged attack.
Gilliam has been a member of the Newton Fire Department for the past 11 years and has “absolutely no criminal record,” his attorney, William Galvin, said outside court.
“We completely dispute what was said in court today,” he said.
The woman said in a telephone interview Friday night that the abuse started within three months of meeting Gilliam through mutual friends almost two years ago.
“He isolated me from my friends and my family,” she said. “He called me weak,” she said, and used derogatory terms to describe her. “Pretty soon you start to believe what you hear every day,” she said.
She said she started believing the abuse was her fault and felt she wanted to protect him.
“I lost myself in him,” she said. “He made me feel like I had no place to go. I thought he was my best friend.”
She said he told her that as a Newton firefighter, he had the backing of the whole city.
“He told me all the higher-ups would back him, ‘This is my city,’ he used to tell me, ‘no one will believe you,’ ” she said.
But slowly, she said, she started talking to a trusted friend and together they came up with her plan to leave while he was working an overnight shift. She said she thought he wouldn’t find her, as she had recently started a new job.
“I’m glad I got out alive,” she said. “I didn’t think I would.”
District Court Judge Cesar Archilla ordered Gilliam held Friday without bail until a dangerousness hearing slated for next Thursday.
Gilliam, who worked at Newton Fire Station 2 at the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Washington Street, was put on paid administrative leave pending the results of the investigation, according to Newton Fire Department spokesman Lieutenant Eric Fricke.
Fricke said he is aware of “no disciplinary history” involving Gilliam and the Fire Department.
“This case concerns allegations about a frightening level of physical violence as well as threats,” Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan said in a prepared statement.
“And of particular concern in this case, is a statement the suspect allegedly made about how he could rely on his job as a firefighter to protect him from prosecution,” she said.
According to a police report filed in court, the woman was taking a break at the end of her shift at 6:30 p.m. Thursday outside Children’s Hospital in Waltham when “she felt someone punch the back of her head three times.”
She told police she fell down, blacked out, and then woke up in the front seat of Gilliam’s car, which he was driving while holding her by her hair.
“You don’t need to get physical with me. Just please let me go,” she told Gilliam, according to the report.
“No, I’m not letting you go anywhere. I would kill you first before you can go anywhere,” he replied, according to the report.
From there he took her to Wyman Street in Newton, where he dragged her by the hair up to the third-floor apartment they had shared until the day before, when she had packed some of her belongings and left, the report said.
“You can’t just leave the home without talking to me,” she said he had told her on the ride to Wyman Street, located in the city’s Waban section.
“You are not leaving this house tonight, I’ll make sure you never leave this house again,” she said he told her according to the police report, adding that because he was a firefighter, “nothing will ever happen to him.”
The woman told police Gilliam continued to hold her by the hair and hit her head once they were back in the apartment. He also started hitting her in the left knee, according to the report, and telling her, “You will never walk again.”
The woman told police Gilliam had been drinking what she believed to be alcohol. After he fell asleep, she was able to escape and she called a taxi at 7:35 p.m. She had the taxi take her to her parents’ home in Watertown, and they then took her to the Newton police station.
Gilliam was arrested by Newton police at the Wyman Street apartment.
Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.