Noa Ronnie Etheridge, 25, was today sentenced in the Supreme Court in Rockhampton to 16 years prison for attempting to murder then 56-year-old Koongal woman Kerry Gittins on January 9, 2018.
Noa Ronnie Etheridge, 25, was today sentenced in the Supreme Court in Rockhampton to 16 years prison for attempting to murder then 56-year-old Koongal woman Kerry Gittins on January 9, 2018. Jann Houley

Hammer attack victim reduced to 'pathetic, meaningless' life

A ROCKHAMPTON woman viciously attacked with hammer blows to her skull in her own home after she opened the door to her attacker when he asked for help wishes she died from the attack.

Her attacker, Noa Ronnie Etheridge, was today sentenced in the Supreme Court in Rockhampton to 16 years prison for attempting to murder then 56-year-old Koongal woman Kerry Gittins on January 9, 2018.

He was on parole at the time after receiving a five-year prison term for dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death after he ran over 17-year-old Jemal Lawton on Rockonia Rd, Rockhampton, at 2am on March 29, 2014, and fled the scene.

Jemal Lawton, who was hit by a car on Rockonia Road. 
Photo Contributed
Jemal Lawton, who was hit by a car on Rockonia Road. Photo Contributed Contributed

 

Justice Graeme Crow said it was Etheridge's reckless behaviour, not intent to kill, that led to Mr Lawton's death.

"My concern is if you didn't learn from that you will never learn," he said.

Etheridge, 25, will serve more than 14 years after serious violence declaration was made and taking into account the 18 months he is still serving for killing Mr Lawton.

 

Tributes to Jemal Lawton on the corner of Stack Street and Rockonia Road.
Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin
Tributes to Jemal Lawton on the corner of Stack Street and Rockonia Road. Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin Allan Reinikka ROK080414atribute

During sentencing for his attack on Ms Gittins and associated drug-fuelled offending, the court heard Ms Gittins wrote in her impact statement that she had a "pathetic, meaningless existence."

Crown prosecutor Joshua Phillips said the statement went on to say "she rationalises to herself that it would be economically better if she was dead".

He said she feels she is a burden on her family.

Justice Crow went into the impact statement comments further by telling the court Ms Gittins had to pay for multiple medical procedures due to the injuries inflicted by Etheridge where he hit her skull so hard with a hammer, the wound reached the brain matter and caused blood scattered around the brain.

"You have ruined her life," he said.

"She has gone from a career independent woman who regularly helped people to someone who needs a carer.

"She is sick of people telling her she is extremely lucky she is alive."

Justice Crow said she cannot driver anymore, ride horses, feel safe, has trouble articulating her thoughts, can no longer work nor travel independently, nor help others.

He said her daughter, Lydia Withers, wrote in her impact statement that her mother is now anti-social, gets confused, has memory issues and has difficulties speaking clearly at times.

The court was told Ms Withers didn't work for 5.5 months after the attack as she took care of her mother and suffered post traumatic stress disorder.

Etheridge was 23 years old when he went on a crime spree on January 9, 2018 that included attacking Ms Gittins in her home at about 6.30am after asking her for a bottle of water.

He struck Ms Gittins in both temples with a hammer and likely other blows due to the fractured cheekbone and three broken teeth.

Etheridge claimed he doesn't recall anything between taking a cocktail of drugs including up to 12 Xanax, four LSD tabs and eight points of methamphetamine until he "woke up" in Blackwater Hospital about 11am on January 9.

Ms Gittins can't recall anything past the first hammer blow to her temple.

She navigated an ATV from her house to a unit where her daughter lived down the driveway, to get help.

A horrifying photo shown to the jury during the trial showed Ms Gittins covered in blood with open wounds to her temples as she sat in the ATV being treated by Queensland Ambulance paramedics.

Etheridge had stolen a black handled silver claw hammer from a garage of nearby units where Ms Withers and her fiance Jeff Tomlinson resided.

Dr Jed Robusto was one of the medical team who treated Ms Gittins at Royal Brisbane Women's Hospital and told the court if Ms Gittins had not received medical treatment for her temple injuries, "she would have developed an infection. She would have developed meningitis and potentially an abscess or infected collection in her brain".

He said the consequence of those was "death or severe morbidity".

Etheridge had left muddy fingerprints and clothing throughout the block of units on the property, including muddy clothing left in the laundry.

He stole a Nissan Navara and Ms Gittins' wallet from the property before fleeing, smashing through steel gates that kept horses in the property, and drove along the Capricorn Highway committing more crimes before being intercepted by police.

Etheridge claimed the cocktail of drugs he consumed before the offending period was a suicide attempt.

Defence barrister Andrew Hoare said Etheridge, who was still riddled with guilt and depression over killing Mr Lawton, told him he wished he had been successful in his suicide attempt as it "would have spared the tremendous consequence to (Ms Gittins)".

Mr Hoare said when Etheridge was released on parole for killing Mr Lawton in June 2017, he did not obtain appropriate medical help for his mental health problems, had fears of going out in public because he killed Mr Lawton and made many attempts on his life.

He said since his return to prison he had received help and is clean of amphetamine.

Etheridge was supported in court by his mother and other family members.