Mthulisi Ndlovu of Bonney Lake pleaded guilty on Aug. 10 to the second-degree murder of his girlfriend Mary Mushapaidzi. The plea bargain will see him sentenced for the crime in the near future, though the defendant has submitted extenuating circumstances for consideration, claiming years of abuse at her hands. He faces a minimum of 123 months—more than 10 years—in prison, though the judge has discretion to hand down a life sentence.
Ndlovu killed his former wife following a fight over dishes on Oct. 9. He attempted to burn her body in a barrel in the garage at the Inlet Island home the couple shared.
Ndlovu faces 10 years to life in prison.
But a report from a psychiatrist assigned to Ndlovu describes a suspect with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder stemming from his time growing up in Zimbabwe during the civil war of the 1980s. The report also details years of degradation and abuse from Mushapaidzi.
“Based on a review of the documents… and based on my interviews with Mr. Ndlovu, I believe him to be the primary victim of ongoing intimate partner violence,” wrote Dr. April Gerlock in her evaluation. “His behaviors are not behaviors of an IPV perpetrator.”
According to the report, Ndlovu still suffers from flashbacks to atrocities he witnessed as a child in Zimbabwe, including beatings, murders and the rape and execution of his aunt.
Ndlovu also claims that because he stuttered, he would try to avoid arguments, often apologizing to avoid conflict. Because of this, Mushapaidzi, who was from a majority tribe in their home country compared to Ndlovu’s minority tribe, would “walk all over him” and force her will on him in nearly every manner.
Ndlovu told the therapist Mushapaidzi threatened him and their daughter more than once with a gun she kept in the car or in her purse, yelling “I’ll blow your brain and your daughter’s brain out right now.”
When the therapist asked him to write about the abuse, Ndlovu wrote 13 singe-spaced pages of examples, including physical, sexual and psychological abuse ranging from repeatedly insulting his manhood to using a stun gun on him, spitting in his food to saying things like “you are a hairless dog, a piece of (expletive), you are like an insect to me, you are the scum of the earth, your tribe is nothing compared to my tribe, you are nothing under the sun and under my (expletive), you have no self esteem.”
Ndlovu also said that he still has nightmares about things she did to him, along with his recurring nightmares about Zimbabwe.
Ndlovu said Mushapaidzi made more money than him and that leaving her was not an option and stayed to be with his daughter because Mushapaidzi told him he was crazy if he thought a court would believe him and give him custody.
On the night of Musapaidzi’s murder, Ndlovu said she arrived home around 10 p.m., immediately angry with him for shoes left by the door. She called him names, demanded he clean the fish tank and then noticed dirty dishes in the sink. Ndlovu quietly got up to clean the dishes and she threw a cup at him, which hit him in the arm and then dropped to the floor and broke.
As he was sweeping it up, he claimed Mushapaidzi hit him in the head with her handbag, knocking him over. Before he could get up, she kicked him in his testicles so hard he threw up. She then took out a stun gun and tased him “all over his body.”
Ndlovu said he could not get away from Mushapaidzi.
The couple had used a pair of disassembled cutting shears as a stop in a sliding glass door and Ndlovu reached for one of the pieces and swung it at Mushapaidzi, hitting her in the head. Ndlovu said Mushapaidzi then began going through her purse—for the gun, he believed—and he hit her again, knocking her over. She took the gun out of the bag and he punched her again until she stopped moving.
After a brief period, Ndlovu said he put her purse in the closet, destroyed the gun and stun gun and put them in a baggie and tossed them in a dumpster in Auburn.
“I didn’t want to answer questions about the gun with the police,” he told the therapist. “I didn’t want anyone to think the mother of my child was a criminal. It’s hard to say that my girlfriend is tasing and beating me. These things make her and me look bad.”
According to police reports, Ndlovu then put Mushapaidzi’s body in a barrel in the garage and went to work, returning at 56:30 a.m. He burned her body and then called police to tell them Mushapaidzi had left for a run and not returned.
Friends of Mushapaidzi and of the couple who were interviewed by police described Ndlovu as quiet and deferential to Mushapaidzi. Friends interviewed by police also described Mushapaidzi as “controlling” and “very bossy,” but had never heard of any physical altercations between them.
According to the report, Ndlovu shows signs of post traumatic stress disorder and as a battered spouse.
“Mr. Ndlovu’s behavior is also described by friends and family as similar to that of a battered woman,” the report states.
The state is requesting a sentence of 244 months for Ndlovu. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 24.