SOUTH BEND — Harlan Praul had been dating his girlfriend only two weeks when he said he decided to kill her.
Using only his fists, he said he beat 48-year-old Christine Freeman early today until she was unconscious and not breathing. Then he allegedly left her bleeding in the 200 block of East Haney Street, and called 911 from the front steps of Broadway Christian Church, two blocks away.
Freeman had no vital signs when police found her, they said. She was rushed by ambulance to a local hospital and began breathing on the way there.
Police said her injuries were so severe she was unrecognizable. She had multiple fractures to her face and ribs and severe blunt force trauma to the head and torso, according to court documents.
Meanwhile, Praul met with investigators and provided a disturbing account of how he tried to kill Freeman after they had a discussion about previous relationships.
First he struck her in the face. When she tried to leave and call for help, he said he threw her on the pavement, knocking her unconscious. He told investigators he tried suffocating her, then punched and kicked her about the head and body until he was certain she was dead.
"He told me it had been his desire to kill Ms. Freeman, and actually thought he had succeeded," the investigator officer wrote in a criminal affidavit.
The emergency room doctor told police that if not for the "life-saving efforts by officers and paramedics, Ms. Freeman would not have survived," according to court document.
Though Praul has no prior criminal convictions in St. Joseph County, police said he has convictions out of Nebraska and Iowa, including burglary, terroristic threats, domestic battery and forgery.
Praul is charged with attempted murder, a Class A felony, and aggravated battery, a Class B felony.
He is being held in the St. Joseph County Jail on a $100,000 cash bond, according to court documents.
Staff writer Mary Kate Malone: