A Gig Harbor man pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder Monday in the beating death of his girlfriend.
William Barry Selley, 41, originally was charged with assaulting 29-year-old Kathryn Southward. The charge was amended to second-degree murder after Southward died Friday of injuries suffered last month.
Bail was set at $1 million Monday at his arraignment.
He denied attacking Southward, telling investigators she was hurt during a series of falls after the couple had been drinking, court records show.
Southward suffered three broken ribs, a partially collapsed lung and other internal organ damage, as well as bruises all over her body, according to investigators.
It was several days before Selley called 911, according to the documents. He said he waited to seek help because they had no insurance, but called his mother when Southward started to vomit a dark substance, the papers show. She persuaded him to call for help.
Several of Southward’s family members attended the arraignment Monday.
“This is a tragedy for our family, and Kate did not deserve this,” said Lisa McAllister, Southward’s oldest sister. “She was in the cycle of domestic violence, which is an incredibly painful family struggle. We just weren’t able to interrupt the brainwashing that she endured, and unfortunately, it had devastating consequences.”
Southward grew up in Tacoma and has a 12-year-old daughter who lives with the father, McAllister said.
Her younger sister loved the outdoors, McAllister said.
“She really loved nature and being out camping, hiking,” she said. “She would go on walks with my mom and the dogs. She loved her pets.”
Southward starting dating Selley about six years ago and eventually went to live with him in Gig Harbor, McAllister said.
Her family believes Southward was a victim of domestic violence, but isn’t sure exactly when it began, McAllister said, adding that her sister was secretive about some of the details.
They had tried to access several resources to get her help through the years, such as the YWCA, McAllister said.
“Until somebody is ready to report it to police and press charges, you’re just not able to do much, and Kate was not ready to press charges,” McAllister said. “She was fearful if she were to do that. We did access the resources of the emergency room on occasion, just trying to get help and provide support wherever possible, hoping it wouldn’t come to this.”
Southward’s family hopes similar cases can have a different outcome.
“We hope Kate’s story will help others see the pattern of domestic violence and seek help, and hopefully make it out,” McAllister said.
Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268