On a day originally slated for a birthday celebration, Maria Gruver instead lay naked on the living room floor of her Nazareth home, her arms splayed beside her. Her limbs were numb and it felt like she couldn’t breathe.
Gruver begged -- in a suprisingly slow, calm voice -- a Northampton County 911 dispatcher for help.
“Please. I need help. Now. I feel like I’m dying,” the 26-year-old pressed Angie Campbell, the dispatcher on the other side of the phone line. "I feel like I am going away. And today is my birthday."
The 911 calls Gruver made in the early morning hours of July 15 were played Tuesday during the preliminary hearing for her husband, Jason Gruver, who could face up to 34 years in prison if found guilty of charges of choking his wife and breaking vertebrae in her neck.
Maria Gruver is now facing life as a quadriplegic, according to Guy W. Fried, M.D., the chief medical officer at Magee Rehabilitation in Philadelphia.
“She’s dependent with a capital D,” Fried said during his testimony. He added that his patient relies on a ventilator during the nighttime.
Jason Gruver, 28, faces charges of criminal attempt – murder of the third degree, aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person and harassment and two counts of simple assault.
And he is accused of attempting suicide by cutting his wrist and using his blood to write an apology on a shower wall.
After a two-hour hearing in front of District Judge John Capobianco, the charges will move to Northampton County Court. Gruver’s formal arraignment is scheduled for 9 a.m. Nov. 8.
Gruver appeared before Capobianco in a red jumpsuit issued by Northampton County Prison, where he remains under $150,000 bail. He did not speak, other than a few whispers to his attorney, and he remained stoic.
But after the domestic dispute, which occurred in the Gruvers’ home on the 400 block of Union Street, Jason Gruver attempted suicide by cutting his wrist, according to court records. He thought he had killed his wife.
Maria Gruver's sister later found an apology. On the walls of a shower and allegedly scrawled in Gruver’s blood, according to court records, was the message, “I’m sorry. I ♥ u so much.”
According to Trooper Christopher Smith Jr. -- Pennsylvania State Police was covering for the Nazareth Borough Police Department at the time of the incident -- Jason Gruver said he and his wife began to argue after returning from a club.
As the fight escalated, Smith testified, Maria Gruver told her husband she was going to kill herself.
In an effort to stop her, Jason Gruver bear-hugged Maria Gruver. When Jason Gruver realized his wife was injured, he grabbed a 12-inch serrated knife from the kitchen and headed for an upstairs bathroom.
Smith said he and his partner found Jason Gruver in the bathroom, bleeding from his left wrist.
“He was not bleeding profusely,” Smith explained. “He did not seem to be in need of immediate medical attention.”
Jason Gruver put the knife to his wrist because “he could not be the man who hurt his own wife,” Smith said.
Gruver's attorney, Gary Asteak of Easton, fought hard to have the charges against his client dismissed.
Asteak picked up on a statement made by Maria Gruver during a 911 call: “He restrained me.”
“We don’t have to go to a dictionary to understand the implications of that word,” Asteak reasoned, adding that the preventive action his client took -- to stop Maria Gruver from killing herself -- was not aggressive.
Asteak added, “You don’t look at the injury to classify the crime. You look at the intention… As catastrophic as this is, it’s nothing more than simple assault from two people entering into a mutual fight.”
After Capobianco’s decision to send all charges to Northampton County Court, he heard a second domestic violence case -- stemming from a March 2009 incident in Bethlehem -- against Jason Gruver.
Gruver will also have to answer to two charges -- simple assault and harassment -- during his November arraignment.