COUNCIL BLUFFS — Tension filled a courtroom of the Pottawattamie County Courthouse on Thursday as the victim of an attack had to confront the man she alleges assaulted her over a 12-hour period in 2012.
But the defendant was not only sitting in the courtroom, he was asking her the questions.
Bryan Bey, 39, who is charged with first- and second-degree kidnapping, is serving as his own lawyer.
Tabitha Proplesch, 30, told the jury she was sitting in a borrowed truck May 30 outside a friend's Omaha apartment when Bey punched her through the rolled-down window. It was the start of an hours-long assault that continued in an apartment and ended the next day only after the truck they were in ran out of gas west of Crescent, Iowa.
Proplesch said that at one point she tried to escape by jumping out a window of the apartment, but Bey ran her down.
While in the truck, she said, she tried to scream for help, but Bey duct-taped her mouth and put her in handcuffs.
She said she was kicked in the head repeatedly after the escape attempt and suffocated until she lost consciousness. At another point, she said, Bey stabbed her in the knee with a letter opener shaped like a dagger.
“He said that he would kill me and hide my body,” she testified. “No one would ever know what happened to me. My parents would never know what happened to me. He said he'd dump me in the river.”
Proplesch avoided eye contact with Bey while testifying.
When Bey cross-examined Proplesch, she gave short responses. She grew defensive as he continued to repeat similar questions after she had answered that she “did not know” the answer.
“Do you remember me telling you it was going to be OK after we ran out of gas?” Bey asked.
“No,” Proplesch responded.
After a series of “do you remember” questions and the same response, Bey asked Proplesch if she remembered anything.
“Do you know where you are now?” he said, which drew an objection from Chief Deputy County Attorney Jon Jacobmeier.
Bey asked if she knew why the attack happened to her, and she said she did not.
Bey suggested that there were people Proplesch was “trying to protect.”
Proplesch said she was not trying to protect anyone but did not remember a lot of things because “I was almost murdered.”
At one point during Proplesch's testimony, an outburst from a woman in the gallery prompted District Judge Kathleen Kilnoski to order the woman and her friend to leave the courtroom. As the woman left, she accused Proplesch of lying.
Before Proplesch's testimony, a DNA expert from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation crime lab told the jury that blood from both Bey and Proplesch was found at the Omaha apartment of Travis Labno, where the assault allegedly started.
Labno, 33, of Omaha was also arrested in the case. Charges against Labno were later dropped. He is expected to testify today.