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Zerrick Joyce

Zerrick Joyce walks out of court with his public defender Charles Doughty after a hearing Monday afternoon in Coconino County Superior Court.

Zerrick Joyce, 33, who prosecutors allege dragged his pregnant girlfriend off a public bus by her hair and strangled her into unconsciousness, set plans on Monday to plead guilty before Coconino County Superior Court Judge Dan Slayton in January.

The accused’s girlfriend of two years, with whom he has two children, will not be named to protect the identity of the victim.

Joyce was originally hit with a slew of charges including kidnapping, resisting arrest, three aggravated assault charges, five aggravated domestic violence charges and six attempted first-degree murder charges.

Many are listed as domestic violence charges and could result in more than 245 years if convicted on all charges.

The six attempted first-degree murder charges stem from Joyce’s accused assaults that endangered the life of his girlfriend and the life of his then-unborn child.

According to the Arizona Revised Statutes, any first-degree murder charge can apply to “an unborn child in the womb at any stage of its development.” The only exceptions for prosecution include if the child died or the mother was being medically treated, if the person responsible was the child’s mother or in the case of a consenting abortion.

The multiple strangulations happened in July 2017, according to court filings. His girlfriend alleged to investigators that Joyce forced her to walk with him to Calvary Cemetery near Northern Arizona University campus to talk.

While there, the girlfriend alleged that she and Joyce got into an argument, which escalated when he began to strangle his girlfriend on a park bench in the cemetery. The girlfriend alleged to police that the accused only stopped once she put her hands into his mouth to try to stop him.

The victim had bite marks on her fingers that prosecutors say are consistent with her allegations.

Prosecutors then allege that Joyce walked his girlfriend to a bus, where she was “relieved to get on the bus and [be] around other people.”

The bus driver was alerted to the couple’s presence when another altercation between the two erupted. According to a memorandum filed by prosecutors, the driver called the police after Joyce dragged his girlfriend off the bus by her hair, threw her to the ground and strangled her outside the bus.

The girlfriend screamed “help me, help me,” according to prosecutors.

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The victim was able to get back on the bus after being pulled off, but Joyce followed her and began strangling her on the floor next to the bus driver for the third time that day. Joyce strangled her “until she lost consciousness and continued to strangle [the victim] even when she was no longer conscious.”

Video from the bus was entered as evidence, which prosecutors allege shows a man pull Joyce off of his girlfriend and remove him from the bus. The bus driver then closes the door between Joyce and his girlfriend, locking the accused out of the bus.

Joyce then fled the area.

The victim eventually woke where she began crying and saying she thought she had died, according to prosecutors. Officers who responded noted the bruises on the victim’s neck and other symptoms consistent with being strangled.

A Northern Arizona University Police Department officer eventually spotted Joyce near an on-campus dormitory, McKay Village. Joyce did not stop fleeing until an officer pointed his Taser at him and commanded him to stop.

The change of plea hearing for Joyce is set for Jan. 14, 2019. The Coconino County Attorney’s Office and Joyce's public defender Charles Doughty did not respond for comment.

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Scott Buffon can be reached at sbuffon@azdailysun.com, on Twitter @scottbuffon or by phone at (928) 556-2250.

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Senior Reporter - Cops, Environment

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