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UPDATED: Stillwater Woman's Neighbors Come to Her Rescue During Domestic Assault

A Stillwater woman told police that her estranged boyfriend burglarized her home, strangled and then threatened to kill her with a knife Sunday morning. But he stopped and then fled after her neighbors forced their way into her apartment.

A 34-year-old Maplewood man was arrested Sunday after he allegedly burglarized a Stillwater woman’s apartment and suffocated her until she passed out.

Michael James Vanwert was charged by  Monday afternoon with domestic assault by strangulation, second-degree burglary and making terroristic threats.

Vanwert was arrested in Maplewood on Sunday afternoon. As of Monday night he was in custody at the Washington County Jail.

According to the criminal complaint:

Stillwater police were called at about 6:20 a.m. Sunday to a report of a domestic assault at an apartment complex in the 1400 block of Greeley Street South.

A 30-year-old Stillwater woman told police that Vanwert—her estranged boyfriend—burglarized her home, strangled her to the point of passing out and then threatened to kill her with a knife. He then fled the scene after the woman’s neighbors came to her aid by forcing their way into her apartment.

The woman told police that Vanwert was released from prison on March 19. Since his release, Vanwert reportedly tried reconnecting with his former girlfriend.

The woman told police that Vanwert had been drinking into the early morning hours Sunday when he decided to come see her at her apartment. But his visit was unwelcomed, she told police, because he had been violent with her in the past.

The woman told police that Vanwert had been trespassed from the apartment complex. When he showed up at her place, instead of contacting police, the woman told the caretaker of the building about his arrival.

The caretaker contacted Vanwert’s sister-in-law, who also lives in the building, and was told he was not at the apartment complex, the complaint states. The caretaker then went back to bed.

Because the woman was fearful after Vanwert’s came to her apartment in the middle of the night, she spent several hours in a neighboring unit. The woman told police she was not able to secure her apartment due to a faulty lock.

The woman went back into her apartment at about 6 a.m., but as she was walking down the hallway to her master bedroom, Vanwert allegedly flung the door to a children’s bedroom open, rushed toward her, grabbed the woman and threw her down on the floor. He then placed his knee on her neck and hands over her face, making it impossible for her to breathe, the report states.

As the woman struggled with Vanwert, she reportedly passed out due to a lack of oxygen. After regaining consciousness the woman told police she looked up at Vanwert and he said she “was going to die” and he was “going back to prison.”

While saying that, Vanwert allegedly grabbed a knife, cocked it above his head and pointed it at her chest, while holding the woman’s arms down with his other hand.

During the struggle, the woman was able to call the last number she dialed—Vanwert’s sister-in-law—and once she heard someone on the line, the woman told police she “screamed bloody murder.”

Moments later several of the woman’s neighbors forced their way into her apartment to help.

Vanwert reportedly stopped the assault and told the woman’s neighbors he was going outside to wait for police to arrive. Police later arrested Vanwert at a home in Maplewood.

After his arrest, Vanwert told police at least three different and conflicting stories, the report states.

He told police that his estranged girlfriend had been sneaking him into her apartment. He also told police that the woman had assaulted him earlier in the week, but he had not yet reported it.

Vanwert told police that he was sleeping at his sister-in-law’s apartment on Sunday night before heading up to his estranged girlfriend’s place. He told police he was sleeping and was awoken by the woman banging on his chest with a knife, and cutting him on the finger.

Vanwert later told police the cut was the result of a fight he had gotten in with a man he was smoking methamphetamine with the night before.

According to court records, Vanwert has a long criminal history that includes several DWIs, theft, disorderly conduct and harassing communication convictions. He was released on March 19 from Minnesota Correctional Facility—Lino Lakes after serving his time for first-degree DWI charges.

Jim April 10, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Very sad but women need to consider owning a self defense weapon. It could be a handgun (with training), knife, pepper spray, club, taser, wasp spray (yes it works reall well in the eyes), extra strong door locks, security system, mean dog, etc. Of course a combination of defensive weapons works even better. The MOST IMPORTANT tool is to always watch for the enemy and avoid being accosted while you are alone. BTW, don't make friends with dangerous people.
Keith April 10, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Lock this loser up for good, what a drain on society,he has 19an arrest on his record.
Jennifer Wicker May 26, 2012 at 09:40 PM
Its over. He pled guilty to felony domestic abuse by strangulation and felony terroistic threats. Thank u for all support. He got 27 months.

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