HEATHSVILLE, Va. — Authorities in Northumberland County, Va., are investigating the murder of a Newport woman whose family wants to shine a light on the realities of domestic violence.
Amber Guthrie, 35, was killed Sept. 21 in a residence in Callao, Va. Several days later, her boyfriend, Jason Roberts, 41, was charged with her murder.
Sgt. Allen Garland with the Northumberland County Sheriff’s Office said the call came in just after midnight Sept. 21. When officers arrived on the scene, they found Mr. Roberts standing outside with an apparently self-inflicted neck wound, and Amber’s body was found inside with multiple stab wounds. She was already dead by the time officers arrived.
“(Mr. Roberts) was transported to the hospital, but we didn’t know what we had at the time,” Sgt. Garland said Friday.
Sgt. Garland said the sheriff’s office is awaiting the autopsy report to determine Amber’s exact cause of death.
Investigators questioned Mr. Roberts during his hospital stay, and he was arrested and charged with first degree murder just prior to his hospital release Sept. 25. He is being held at the Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Va., without bond. His arraignment hearing was held Sept. 27 in the Northumberland County Juvenile and Domestic Relations General Court, and his preliminary hearing is set for Friday, Dec. 13.
Sgt. Garland could not release further details of the case at the time, as it is still under investigation.
Although the events took place in a small Virginia town where the Potomac River meets the Chesapeake Bay, the couple had only been there several months and were originally from Newport, where their families still live. Amber’s mother, LaRose Guthrie, said Mr. Roberts worked as a lineman and they were living in Virginia temporarily for his work.
Amber and Mr. Roberts had been in a relationship for about three years, and LaRose said she has known Mr. Roberts nearly two decades. She said she never knew him as a violent person and it had only been in the past few months that signs of domestic abuse began showing. She alleged Mr. Roberts recently broke Amber’s jaw and left bruises on her body, but Amber was reluctant to admit what was happening.
“It was always an excuse, but in the end, she told me it was him,” LaRose said. “…Three weeks ago, she was down here and I begged her not to go back up with him.”
LaRose said her family was close with Mr. Roberts’, and she is still somewhat in disbelief about what happened.
“I cannot tell you how many times I fed him, he’s put his feet under my table, I’ve given money … and this is how we get paid?” she said. “I just want her story out. I want people to know that he did this to her.”
LaRose is also unhappy with how authorities in Northumberland County have handled some of the details of her daughter’s case, saying there has been poor communication. She said she didn’t find out about her daughter’s death until about six hours after it happened. She has also traveled up to Virginia several times to retrieve Amber’s belongings, but found Mr. Roberts’ family got to them first, despite local authorities telling her they wouldn’t allow that to happen.
Requests for comment from Mr. Roberts’ attorney were not returned by presstime.
Amber had struggled with drugs for years and wanted to go to Virginia, in part, to help get clean, her mother said. LaRose said Amber was doing well in that regard and she was proud of the progress her daughter had made.
“She had her struggles but she was back on the right path and was up there making her life right,” LaRose said.
Amber leaves behind a daughter, Brianne, and two sons, Landon and Bryson. She also leaves behind a large and loving extended family LaRose said she was close to, especially her grandfather.
“She had her Pa wrapped around her finger,” LaRose said. “…All she had to do was say ‘Pa, I need…’ and he got it, he would move heaven and earth for this child.”
LaRose said Amber liked to shop and was very “girly,” but being Salter Path natives, she also loved the beach and to go shrimping and fishing. She had an extensive jewelry collection and LaRose said she was never seen without her favorite necklace, a large starfish-shaped pendant that reminded her of home.
LaRose said her family is devastated by Amber’s death, but they are leaning on each other during their difficult time. Despite her loss, she also wants to help others in domestic violence situations in some way, and hopes by telling Amber’s story, someone in a similar situation may have the strength to leave.
“I just want people to know Amber was loved, so loved,” she said. “And if her story can help even one person, then I want to tell it.”
Editor’s note: October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. If you or anyone you know is suffering from domestic violence, contact the Carteret County Domestic Violence Program’s 24/7 hotline at 252-728-3788.
Contact Elise Clouser at firstname.lastname@example.org; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.