RACINE - Nearly four and a half years after Teri Jendusa-Nicolai's ex-husband sealed her inside a garbage can and left her in an unheated storage unit, a judge awarded her more than $3 million in a civil case against her ex-husband David M. Larsen.
While she knows she will never see most of the money awarded Thursday, Jendusa-Nicolai said it sends a message.
"Other people need to see … this is what is going to happen to you if you ever dream of doing this to another human being," Jendusa-Nicolai said.
Her attorney Patrick Dunphy said Larsen has a $186,000 account which is being managed under court guidance. Any money Jendusa-Nicolai receives will be in addition to child support money her two children with Larsen receive, Dunphy said.
Jendusa-Nicolai, who gives community talks about domestic violence, said she hopes the judgment will act as a deterrent for anyone considering similar violence.
On Jan. 31, 2004, Larsen kidnapped Jendusa-Nicolai, taped her head and hands, and sealed her in a garbage can that was partly filled with snow.
Because of the incident, Jendusa-Nicolai lost all of her toes and miscarried her baby.
The incident occurred exactly three years after their divorce was finalized, Jendusa-Nicolai said.
"Divorces can be ugly. But nobody, nobody does something like this," Jendusa-Nicolai said. "You can't even describe it. It was so ghastly."
Although most divorces do not end like Jendusa-Nicolai's, she said she wants to spread the message that people need to find help if they are victims of domestic violence.
Racine County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Simanek awarded her the money after a court trial that included testimony of the events that took place in 2004.
"There is no doubt in my mind this was a planned attack," said Simanek according to court transcripts of the proceedings.
"The testimony the court heard was so horrific with regards to the injuries sustained by the plaintiff that one would not be human if they did not feel sympathy for what happened," Simanek said. "She did not deserve what happened."
While testimony evoked sympathy, Simanek said he made his decision based on facts.
Based on testimony it is clear she was beaten with a baseball bat, lost her unborn child, underwent multiple surgeries and endured psychological and physical damage.
The judgment included: $1 million for past and future pain and suffering; $500,000 for emotional distress; $1.5 million in punitive damages; and $379,699.92 for past and future medical costs. The judge also awarded her present husband David "Nick" Nicolai $200,000 and Jendusa-Nicolai's two children $50,000 each.
Larsen's attorney could not be reached for comment. In August 2005, Larsen was found guilty of first degree intentional homicide and was sentenced to 35 years in prison and 20 years of extended supervision.
Jendusa-Nicolai suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, which includes symptoms of hypervigilance where she panics if she doesn't see her children at all times.
She is not currently seeing a counselor but said treatment is ongoing. She also is physically limited in what she can do because of losing all her toes.
"When you lose all of your toes … There are still things you will never be able to do again," Jendusa-Nicolai said.
For instance, she can't run, she said. She also has a hard time carrying laundry up stairs or walking on uneven surfaces such as sand or snow, she said.
At the time of the incident, her children with Larsen were 6 and 4 years old, and are now 11 and almost 9. Jendusa-Nicolai wants the money she receives to go in a trust fund for them, she said. Jendusa-Nicolai and Nicolai have a 1-year-old son.