Note: This story contains graphic content.
PENDLETON, Ind. (WXIN) — When police found her, they thought she was dead.
She could barely speak. Her forehead, lips, cheeks, nose and eyes were extremely swollen and bruised. Only when she moaned did investigators realize she was still alive.
The woman’s severe injuries inside a Pendleton home on Sept. 17, 2022, were the result of a vicious beating at the hands of her boyfriend, 41-year-old Joel Meyer, police said. He’s now charged with attempted murder.
Officers with the Pendleton Police Department were called to an address on Carrick Glen Boulevard around 8 a.m. that day. According to court documents, an ambulance requested police assistance because Meyer, described as the “known resident” at the home, was “typically hostile.”
The initial call came in after a neighbor saw a man lying in a pool of blood in the driveway. By the time police arrived, however, the individual had gotten up and walked inside the home. A neighbor told police the man, later identified as Meyer, had severe cuts on his arms, with one “forearm essentially folded over [because] it had been cut so badly.”
Police noticed a large pool of blood in the driveway along with a broken bottle and a trail of blood leading to the door. A woman’s earring was lying in the same area as blood on the porch just outside the front door, according to court documents.
When police knocked on the door and asked to speak with Meyer, he repeatedly told them to “[expletive] off.” He eventually agreed to meet an officer at the sliding glass door at the back of the home. The officer reported hearing “loud noises” that sounded like someone falling on at least two occasions.
Police asked Meyer, who didn’t meet them at the back door, if his girlfriend was home; he said she was but told police they couldn’t check on her. Because of the blood on the driveway and other suspicious circumstances, officers entered the home for a welfare check.
Meyer had cut each of his forearms from wrist to elbow using a butcher knife from the kitchen. When he used his arms, police could see the muscles moving.
Officers located his girlfriend in what appeared to be the master bedroom. She had extensive swelling to her face and neck. Her arms and wrists were completely bruised. Police said her eyes were swollen shut; her left shoulder and clavicle area was bruised.
“In nearly 16 years of full-time law enforcement work, this is the worst domestic violence victim I have come across,” the officer wrote in the probable cause affidavit.
When police asked Meyer what happened, he said that “whatever happened to her was probably done by him,” according to court documents. He told police he’d pushed her and hit her.
His girlfriend, who could barely speak, informed medics that Meyer had hit her.
“Most areas of the home had blood splatter, droplets or pools of blood in them somewhere,” according to court documents. The bedroom was the worst of the lot, with blood covering the entire bed, headboard, walls and floors. Police found a butcher knife there as well; Meyer said he’d used it to cut his own arms.
Based on the blood trail and other evidence, investigators believe Meyer cut himself in the kitchen first and then went into the bedroom.
During the course of the investigation, police smelled gas inside the home; firefighters and officers looked for the origin of the smell and discovered Meyer had ignited the gas stovetop, blown out the flames and left the gas on with the intent of filling the entire residence, according to court documents.
Police said it appeared Meyer beat his girlfriend, cut himself, turned on the gas and then lay in bed with her.
His girlfriend suffered significant injuries, including a brain bleed. She was airlifted to an Indianapolis hospital. His girlfriend has had a Pacemaker for years, according to the woman’s mother, and police believe the injuries to her left chest and clavicle area may have been an attempt to compromise the device.
The woman’s medical alert bracelet had been broken off during the attack. Police found it on the floor near the sunroom; the bracelet alerted people that the wearer suffered from a heart condition. Police found clumps of hair near the front door and the bedroom.
Meyer’s hands and knuckles were bruised and had open wounds from “repeated use and impact,” police said. Again, the responding officer said the injuries were the worst he’d ever seen immediately after a fight or similar call.
After Meyer’s arrest, he was angry and called the charges “bull****.” Investigators showed him photos of his girlfriend’s injuries; Meyer “made the sounds and motions of a man crying, however, no tears were observed,” according to court documents.
He said he must have been responsible for his girlfriend’s injuries because no one else was there. He claimed he didn’t remember hitting her face, neck and chin but proceeded to show police how the injuries could have happened. He explained that he held her down by her wrists and arms and remembered getting “relatively rough” with her left arm while trying to remove her engagement ring.
Meyer acknowledged “many forms of battery” but didn’t recall hitting her face, police said. He told police he “blacked out” and had become intoxicated. He didn’t remember turning on the gas. He said he saw the severe injuries to his girlfriend’s face, went to the kitchen to grab the butcher knife and then cut his arms.
Despite the apparent severity of the cuts, Meyer didn’t cut himself deeply enough to sever any arteries, police said. Doctors who treated him said the wounds were “simple enough” to clean and staple before releasing him into police custody.
On Sept. 19, police interviewed Meyer’s girlfriend in the hospital. A nurse was still trying to wash the blood out of the woman’s hair. She didn’t have any broken bones in her face, according to the medical staff. She needed additional scans before doctors could determine the severity of her brain injuries.
“The [doctors] had not said she is out of the woods yet regarding possible end-of-life or long-term side effects,” according to court documents. “Essentially, only time will tell for now.”
The woman told police everything started with a disagreement over cat litter on Friday, Sept. 16. That evening, Meyer told her to clean litter from the sunroom. She attempted to do so when Meyer threw her down on the floor, shoved her face against the litter and moved it back and forth, rubbing her skin against the “abrasive litter.”
She made a remark that he was “worse than exes,” which set him off, according to court documents. While her memories of the encounter were spotty, she recalled him dragging her around the house by her hair, grabbing her wrists and arms and ripping off her medical bracelet.
She said she lost consciousness many times and recalled Meyer trying to choke her. At one point, she said he pinned her down and repeatedly punched her face, head and left shoulder. She also recalled Meyer throwing her head against the headboard in the master bedroom multiple times.
Much of the assault happened on the morning of Sept. 17 after she called her mother and asked her to come pick her up. Because her mother couldn’t arrive immediately, Meyer’s girlfriend summoned an Uber. When the Uber driver arrived, Meyer stood in the doorway and wouldn’t let her leave, she said.
After that, he held her down and viciously beat her. She also recalled him using the knife to cut his arms and wiping the blood on her hair, face and body. He told her she was a bad girlfriend and made other derogatory remarks, she told officers.
She didn’t know he’d turned on the gas or had gone outside after the attack. She wasn’t surprised that he didn’t call for help because calling the police had previously resulted in his arrest.
“She advised that she does believe she would have [lain] there and died if we had not found her,” police wrote in the probable cause affidavit.
The woman said Meyer had punched her before, describing the violence as “a very normal and common occurrence.” The level of brutality she experienced in this case, she said, was not normal.
Police filed an attempted murder charge against Meyer on Sept. 22. He has been booked into the Madison County Jail.
Online records show Meyer was previously booked in late June on charges of resisting law enforcement, intimidation and battery against a public safety official. He was booked in July on a public intoxication charge.