WMBF News Investigates: Woman's nose bitten off following domestic dispute

WMBF Investigates: Woman's nose bitten off following domestic dispute
Chris Campbell | Source: Horry County Police Department
Chris Campbell | Source: Horry County Police Department
Messer, following the first reconstructive surgery.
Messer, following the first reconstructive surgery.

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Police in Horry County are responding to one type of call more than all the others combined -- and that's domestic violence.

Michele Messer thought she was going to die when her ex-boyfriend bit off her nose.

The incident wasn't the first violent night in the couple's relationship, and wasn't the only time the police were called.

The Happy Days

"It was a very fast and passionate, whirlwind romance. He loved me immensely and that's what made me fall in love with him," Michele Messer said, describing the beginning of her and Chris Campbell's relationship.

Messer said Campbell swept her off her feet.

The pair met in July and moved in together by September.

But by the fall, Messer, a single mother, asked Campbell to move out.

The First Violent Night 

"He didn't take it very well, at all," Messer said of Campbell's reaction to her request.

Messer says Campbell became controlling, and one night, he got aggressive.

"I told him I was going to call police, and he told me he'd kill me before police got there. So the only think I could think to do was to hit record on my phone," Messer said.

In the recording, Campbell admits to saying he would kill Messer's children.

Messer: "Chris, I'm not going to sleep with you in this house with my kids, you just said you were going to kill them do you really think I'm [expletive] stupid enough to fall asleep and allow you to do it…"

Campbell: "Michele, I could do it regardless whether you are standing here or not. You couldn't stop me if you wanted to."

Campbell left after the fight and said she called police, fearing Campbell would come back.

Messer said she played the recording to the responding officer with the Horry County Police Department.

After a sleepless night, Messer started to move on.

The night that changed Michele Messer's life

Two weeks later, she saw Campbell at a local bar.

"Seeing him, you just kind of get that, butterflies in your stomach, that tightness in your chest," Messer said, describing seeing Campbell at the bar.

Messer says Campbell came up to her to talk, and she told him once more they could not be together but things were civil and he seemed to be taking her decision more seriously.

Then, Messer says the bar got loud, so they went to her car to finish their conversation.

"I got in the passenger side, and he got in the driver's side, and the minute we got inside, he locked the doors and he just started swinging on me," Messer said.

"I could barely move my head, and I remember just kind of looking around and seeing blood everywhere. I remember looking down, and just remember blood just spewing from my face.

Chris Campbell had bitten her nose off.

She says he told her he had to finish the job, so no one would know what he did.

Messer said she still doesn't know how she was able to open the door and fall out of the car, when a witness saw her and called for help.

Messer woke up at MUSC and looked in the mirror.

"I can't even begin to explain what I saw, it was just horrifying, half my nose was gone," she explained.

Not knowing what happened to Campbell, if he was arrested, or what he was charged with, Messer visited the jail's website, where she saw his picture and his charge: Criminal Domestic Violence.

"I freaked out, I was like this, this can't be right, I said he tried to kill me, and bit a body part off, he disfigured me for life, this cannot be the right charge," Messer said.

Police Perspective

A spokesperson for the department, Lt. Raul Denis explains these cases are not always black and white.

"Domestic violence calls are probably our most complicated calls because obviously there is going to be multiple participants, and there's going to be more than one side of the story," he said.

Messer said her prayers were answered, and Campbell's charges were raised to attempted murder.

"It happens, it happens, again we don't always get it right, we try to, but we are human, too. So that officer made the determination that that was the way to go and we figured out later we needed some more work on that case, and we made sure it got taken care of," said Denis.

Messer says the way she was treated that night made her understand why some victims are hesitant to call the cops, because of how some officers may feel about domestic calls.

"I think a reasonable person would believe over time, it would have an effect on that particular officer," said Denis. "There's been cases like that before, where we get the same call over and over again, and it's basically a crying wolf situation, and neither party really wants anything done," he added.

"They just want the police to come over and intervene somehow momentarily, and sometimes it goes days or weeks without a call, and other incidents it's only hours," Denis said.

Denis explains there will be no hesitation to put someone in jail when the evidence lines up.

"We do this every day, we answer criminal domestic violence calls routinely, and routinely there are many calls that require just that, even when the suspect is gone, we will hunt them down and put them in jail," he ensured.

Messer said she doesn't understand why Campbell's violent history wasn't the deciding factor to go out, find him, and arrest him that first night, especially since he was out on bond for a previous attempted murder charge.

"If the judge determined that he wasn't a threat to society, and released him on bond until his court date, he's as free as you and I, and we can't use that against him," Denis explained.

"We're very sorry for what happened to her," said Denis. "Unfortunately, this individual was a dangerous person, and it occurred the way it occurred, I mean I don't think that we could have prevented that several days later even if we had arrested him that first night, which we didn't have cause too," he added.

As much as Messer wants to put the blame on police, she said she also takes some responsibility.

"Even on my part too, if I would have just walked out that day, instead of believing that he was still this good guy, when I started to see so many red flags at the end," she admits.

Messer's Recovery

Messer said a part of her will never be the same, physically, and mentally.

"A lot of good has come out of this, you know I got to see people's kindness, and generosity, and support, my faith in humanity was basically lost before this, and it's been completely restored," said Messer.

Messer underwent a third out of five surgeries and said she is finally starting to feel and look like herself again.

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Correction: We incorrectly reported that the same officer responded to both incidents of violence involving Michele Messer and Chris Campbell. Horry County Police say no single officer responded to both calls. We regret the mistake.

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