Christopher Mroz met his wife in basic training just after joining the Air Force in 2011.
On paper, they seemed like a good match, court papers say. Both were young – she was 18, he was 20 – both were in the military, and both were interested in the Wiccan religion, with Mroz calling himself a warlock and his wife, Felicia, considering herself a witch and healer.
After she was transferred to Royal Air Force Base Lakenheath in the United Kingdom in 2012, they were married “by proxy” until he could join her there and they could begin their lives together.
That’s when the beatings began, prosecutors say. Mroz sent her to the hospital for treatment twice – once for a broken arm, another time for a knot on the head after he stomped on her while she was facedown on the floor.
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“He would often get angry over things like the way she made dinner or folded money, and he would sometimes yell at her in front of their co-workers,” court papers say. “On one occasion, not long after moving into their on-base housing, the defendant stuffed a pair of long, green socks into (her) mouth and held her nose shut with his fingers.”
On Tuesday, with Felicia watching from a live video feed, Mroz was sentenced in a Sacramento federal courtroom to 15 years in prison for the abuse.
Mroz had earlier pleaded guilty to assault and stalking in an unusual prosecution of a domestic violence case in federal court.
The case was prosecuted in Sacramento after Mroz was given a general discharge from the Air Force for sexually harassing three co-workers, court papers say, and his wife paid to have him fly home in 2015.
Upon his arrest in Sacramento, he was held at the Sacramento County jail, where court papers obliquely refer to “an extraordinary event” that occurred while he was awaiting trial.
“An inmate at the jail wrote to Christopher with threats to harm the Assistant United States Attorneys and witnesses in Christopher’s case,” court papers say.
Although details of that threat were filed under seal, discussions in court Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Kimberley J. Mueller suggest Mroz reported the threats against prosecutors Jill Thomas and Michele Beckwith.
“This was the most responsible way to act,” Assistant Federal Defender Lexi Negin said in court.
Still, prosecutors insisted that Mroz should not get any credit for his actions.
“I don’t think he should get points, if you will, for alerting authorities about threats against us,” Thomas told the judge.
Mroz, now 26, sat in court in an orange jail jumpsuit and appeared overcome with emotion as his ex-wife described over the video feed how her life with him had her “constantly in fear.”
She talked about how she would think of the best way to sit down, in case he suddenly attacked her, and how after he finally moved out she had to explain the holes in the walls of their home where he had thrown her against them. Once, court papers say, he tried to hide one of the holes by placing a bookcase in front of it.
Prosecutors say Mroz concocted cover-up stories for her to tell authorities about how she was injured, and insisted she repeat them to get them straight.
“At work, I often had to wear long sleeves to cover up the bruises, even when it was hot outside,” his ex-wife said, adding, “The abuse was physical, mental, verbal and sexual.”
Mroz, whose family and friends packed one side of the court, is described in letters to the judge as a “kind and caring young man” who loves animals and is remorseful about his actions. His defense attorney said in her court filings that Mroz “has matured greatly” in his time in jail, something Mroz echoed in his own comments to the judge before sentencing.
“I have been incarcerated for 585 days, and it’s been tough,” Mroz said. “It’s offered me a lot of time to reflect on my actions...I want to say to Felicia that I’m sorry, I really am.”
In sentencing Mroz, Mueller said she had to take into account the efforts he made to cover up his abuse, and that he “gets some small amount of credit” for reporting the threats against prosecutors.
But even after a 15-year sentence, his legal troubles may not be over. Prosecutors in Santa Cruz County have filed sexual assault charges against him involving a former girlfriend, court records say.