Wilkinson man has guns seized, faces multiple charges of abuse against a woman

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Ralph Carrol Atwell Jr., 55, Wilkinson

HANCOCK COUNTY — A Wilkinson man who officials say battered, strangled and confined a woman multiple times for over a year has been arrested and charged with multiple felony crimes after officials removed multiple guns from his residence.

Ralph Carrol Atwell, Jr. 55, 10000 block of East 550 North was arrested Tuesday and officially charged with a Level 3 felony count of confinement, a Level 5 felony count of domestic battery, a Level 5 felony count of obstruction of justice, a level 6 felony count of criminal recklessness committed with a deadly weapon, two Level 6 felony counts of strangulation and a Class A misdemeanor count of domestic battery.

The crimes occurred from August 2023 through February of this year, court records show. Atwell Jr. was in Hancock County Superior Court 1 Wednesday where Judge D.J. Davis entered a not guilty plea on all counts, granted the state’s request for a “No Contact” order, and granted the state’s request for Wilkinson not to possess any firearms.

Davis also set a $9,000 cash bond. Atwell however was not listed as an inmate in the county jail Thursday morning indicating he has bonded out. He is due back in court for a pretrial conference in mid-July.

A look at Atwell’s state records show he has had nine different criminal cases opened against him starting in 1993 with the recent charges being the most serious.

“We really appreciate the effort’s of the Sheriff’s Department, Deputy Danielle Pruitt on this one on following up and doing this investigation getting us the information we needed to file,” Prosecutor Brent Eaton said. “It’s a credit to the Sheriff’s Department and it lets people know this office takes domestic violence very seriously, and we’re continuously working on these types of cases which are a high priority but mostly we can not review case we don’t receive.”

According to a probable cause affidavit, officials from the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department were asked on Feb. 15 to do a welfare check at the East 550 North address where it was noted officials have had many encounters with Atwell Jr., who they said owned a large gun collection and is paranoid.

Dispatch advised a domestic violence advocate was conducting an intake interview with a woman at the address over the phone when the line suddenly went dead and officials could not get her back on the line and feared the woman was in distress, the affidavit said.

A deputy was able to make contact with the victim and took her to his patrol car where he felt she would be safe. The victim told the deputy Atwell Jr. does not allow her to talk with other people, and he has the ability to turn her phone off via a computer. The official noted the victim displayed typical signs of abuse as she recoiled into a ball, kept her head down and did not make eye contact, the report stated.

The woman told officials said she had been in a relationship for a year with Atwell Jr. and that he had abused her multiple times, including telling her what to say to court officials in Rush County so charges would be dropped in a case there where he had been charged with criminal recklessness with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct.

The victim also told officials she felt Atwell Jr. will harm her and her children, the affidavit said.

Officials documented nine incidents in the affidavit surrounding Atwell Jr. in the county. The paperwork included two different victim encounters with law enforcement from the Shirley Police Department (SPD). While officials there documented the encounters with the victim about the abuse, Atwell Jr. was never talked with, checked on or arrested by the SPD.

“She didn’t want to press charges, she just wanted to get away from the situation,” SPD chief Brian Pryor said. “We never noticed any visible markings on her, she more or less was just trying to get away from the situation so we gave her a ride a few times.”

The affidavit included claims Atwell Jr. squeezed the victims face, twisted her foot, threatened to shoot up a camper she was in, attempted to run over her with a vehicle, choked her multiple times causing her to pass out, and pointed a gun threatening her, as well as verbally abusing her.

Following Atwell Jr.’s arrest in Rush County, officials note in the affidavit, Atwell Jr. was having a mental health crisis, so 14 firearms were seized from his property. Then on Feb. 15, officials requested the welfare check on the victim and then on Feb. 18, the Hancock County SWAT team executed a warrant to seize all firearms from his property.