Tracy Stombres had seen the images of the television news accounts of the horror she experienced on Aug. 1, 2001, countless times, to the point where she was almost numbed by them.
Or so she thought. During recent TV interviews to promote her book, the footage — Phoenix paramedics wheeling her on a stretcher after she was stabbed 40 times by her estranged husband, police holding her then-2-year-old son, who witnessed the incident — was shown to her again.
“I hadn’t seen it in a couple years,” Stombres said. “I was nervous and couldn’t sleep the rest of the night. It affected me.”
The images — and, much more grippingly, her own recollections — are the source of the fear and anger Stombres has lived with for nearly a decade. However, those emotions fuel her cause, which is detailed in “Serrated: A True Story of Survival, Recovery and the Pursuit of Justice,” a book co-authored with Stephanie Angelo and released in conjunction with National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Authors sometimes say that there are books you want to write, and books you have to write. “Serrated” is definitely the latter for Stombres, 40.
“I wanted people to see how justice was not served,” Stombres said. “I was mad, and putting my frustrations out on paper helped me a lot. I wanted to put it down on paper so people could see what went wrong.”
During an hours-long standoff, Fred Gomoll used an 8-inch serrated knife to lacerate Stombres’ face and body. When Stombres’ mother, Vina Bartlett, tried to intervene, she suffered a fatal stab wound to the neck.
In the criminal trial, Gomoll claimed that he acted in self defense and Bartlett’s wound was accidental. He was acquitted of first-degree murder but convicted of aggravated assault and kidnapping and sentenced to 12 years in prison, with the probability of release after nine years.
Stombres required extensive reconstructive surgery, including a nose reattachment. Her mother had hepatitis C, and she contracted it from the knife.
“After the case, I wanted to blow up the court building,” Stombres said. “I was mad and upset and felt that he had won again. I had so much anger inside of me.”
She filed a civil suit against Gomoll in 2005, and the jury awarded $100,000 each to Stombres and her son.
Stombres’ vehicle to channel her emotions in positive ways has been telling her story, which includes a difficult upbringing. Both of her parents used drugs, with her father dying of an overdose when she was 2. She was homeless as a teenager, became a stripper to support herself, and thought that marriage would offer stability. It did not.
Her son — Stombres requested his name not be disclosed — has been scarred greatly by the ordeal, having seen a battery of psychiatrists and taken a variety of medications since. However, Stombres said, he has found purpose in skateboarding, which he hopes to do professionally.
“He has a lot of anger, but when he’s on a skateboard, that stuff is out of his mind,” said Stombres, who has an older daughter who was not present at the time of the incident.
Stombres and Angelo are planning to hold a book-signing at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe in January.
She hopes to use some of the book proceeds to open a domestic-violence shelter in her mother’s name in the West Valley, where she said such facilities are lacking.
Gomoll — who is incarcerated in Douglas — is scheduled to be released in August. Stombres said that she fears for her and her family’s safety; a protection order is likely, but she might leave Arizona.
“I have a few friends in different states; I might move,” Stombres said. “Right now, I’m very scared, I don’t know what I’m going to do.”