How to support victims of domestic abuse
Accusing his then-girlfriend of infidelity, Blake Reuben Houze shot the pregnant woman three times, the first bullet to the face taking out her right eye, then stole her phone, wallet and car, and left her for dead.
The victim and her unborn child survived. The wounded woman lay still on the floor until Houze left her Warm Springs Road apartment, and then went to a neighbor’s home for help. While she was in the hospital, Houze returned to her apartment, went in and got a backpack with his passport in it, investigators said.
That was back in 2015. Three years later, after some legal wrangling over whether Houze was competent to stand trial, and after he repeatedly changed attorneys, he has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to prison.
He was 40 years old when he gunned the woman down at Brighton Park Apartments on July 5, 2015, shortly after 4 in the morning. His victim was 34.
She told police the two were living together in the 6254 Warm Springs Road apartment when Houze, armed with a gun, came in and woke her up, complaining about some text messages she got, and accusing her of cheating on him.
This altercation followed a tense day during which the woman and Houze attended a get-together with her family, who did not welcome his presence, authorities said. That friction likely contributed to the ensuing violence.
As Houze held the woman at gunpoint, she tried to grab the pistol, and he fired a bullet into her face, irreparably injuring her right eye, which she later lost.
She lay still, as if dead, while he emptied her purse to get her keys, cellphone and wallet. Moments later he came back and shot her twice more, wounding her in the upper lip and left shoulder, police said.
He left in her black 2009 Nissan Maxima worth $14,000, authorities said.
While the woman was hospitalized, Houze called the apartment complex property manager to ask whether anyone was renting her apartment. Sometime between Aug. 11 and Aug. 25, 2015, he went back into her home to get the backpack.
Columbus police got warrants charging Houze with multiple offenses, including attempting to commit the felony of murder. He left town, but U.S. Marshals found him the following Sept. 9 in Atlanta.
Besides attempted murder, he was charged with aggravated assault, aggravated battery, armed robbery, hijacking a motor vehicle, false imprisonment, first-degree burglary and using a firearm to commit a crime.
After a plea negotiation last week, Houze pleaded guilty to all but the false imprisonment, aggravated assault and firearms charges, which were dropped. Superior Court Judge Gil McBride sentenced him to 45 years in prison with 25 to serve and the rest on probation. Houze today is 43 years old.
Since his arrest, he has had four different attorneys and two court-ordered mental evaluations. McBride first ordered an evaluation March 28, 2016, when Columbus attorney Stacey Jackson represented Houze.
That evaluation was to determine whether Houze was competent to stand trial and “had the mental capacity to distinguish right from wrong” when he shot the woman.
In December 2017, McBride ordered a second evaluation at Columbus’ West Central Georgia Regional Hospital, where Houze was to receive treatment if needed. Houze’s attorney then was William Kendrick.
Houze also has been represented by Atlanta attorney Bruce Harvey, in 2015, and by Columbus attorney Michael Eddings, in 2016.
After hearing testimony regarding Houze’s mental state, McBride this past July 4 sent a letter to Kendrick and to Assistant District Attorney Chris Williams, stating that Houze is “presumed competent.”
Wrote McBride: “Mr. Houze appears to be highly organized in his thinking. He understands his circumstance and is able to weigh and compare and choose among various courses of action…. Mr. Houze draws conclusions in a lucid and rational way, reasoning from one deduction to the next in a predictable manner. He appears able to render assistance to his counsel in evaluating the case against him, making strategic decisions and raising a defense.”
The judge concluded: “In closing, I note a difference between being unable to assist counsel and being unwilling to assist counsel. Given the highly situational, goal-directed episodes and conduct in which Mr. Houze hangs his case for being found incompetent, I must conclude that the state is entitled to ruling in its favor.”
Williams said the court held hours of hearings on Houze’s mental condition before McBride made that decision. Houze was trying to dodge serving time in prison, the prosecutor said: “He was trying to avoid criminal punishment by claiming incompetence.”