A Horrific Crime
When Yvette first met Hargrave, she says he always smiled and had a "great personality." As a single parent raising a young daughter, she says she also admired the care and concern he showed for his son from a previous relationship. Yvette soon married Hargrave, but their happiness began to fade after only a few months.
Carol Bryant, Yvette's aunt and the one who introduced the couple, says Hargrave started drinking a lot after the wedding and then began verbally abusing her niece. "You couldn't even call their home without having to listen to him in the background making vulgar remarks and screaming and hollering," Carol says.
Yvette's family feared that Hargrave's erratic behavior would turn violent. Within months, their fears became a frightening reality.
* Federal Bureau of Investigation
After her family realized what was happening, Carol says they advised Yvette to leave her husband. Hargrave finally moved out and the two separated...but Yvette says her estranged husband continued to torment her and her daughter. "I felt like a prisoner in my own home," she says.
In July 2005, Yvette got a protective order against Hargrave. Two months later, Hargrave asked the court to lift the order, claiming he and Yvette would attend marriage counseling. Despite Yvette's desperate pleas and pictures documenting the physical abuse she suffered, the judge, Richard Palumbo, dismissed Yvette's case and lifted the protective order. He later said it was a clerical error. He has since retired.
Yvette says she was so focused on not causing a commotion in front of the customers, she didn't realize she was covered in gasoline. As Yvette ran out the back door into the parking lot, Hargrave followed her. "He caught me, grabbed me, and I felt something on my back," Yvette says. "The next thing I know, I was on fire."
Frantically, Yvette ran back into the store covered in flames. "I just went to the sink, and I began to hose my face, and I remember thinking to myself that my face was melting," she says.
When help arrived, Yvette was rushed to the emergency room. Hargrave was arrested and charged with attempted murder.
Yvette's ears melted during the attack and she lost an earlobe. To prevent scar tissue from forming on her face, she wears a plastic face mask 23 hours a day. She also has to wear pressure garments—tight clothes that keep the skin from becoming bumpy. Some days, Yvette says it's just too painful to get the garments over her arms.
Despite the scars, Yvette maintains a positive attitude about her new appearance. "I don't care what people think when they look at my face," she says. "I know what it feels like to be pretty, so if they don't like it, that's too bad."
"So often what happens is you see this happening in your own family and you say, 'I will never be this kind of woman,'" Oprah says. "Then she grows up and she ends up with somebody who does the same thing to her, because that's what she knows."
Yvette hopes that by telling her story on The Oprah Winfrey Show, her daughter will learn from her mistakes and be less likely to fall victim to abuse.
- Jealousy and possessiveness
- Controlling behavior
- Verbal abuse
- Threats to harm you, your family or your pet
- Isolation from friends and family
Many of the red flags were present in Yvette's relationship. "He called me a fat beached whale," she says. "He would try to make me feel less than a human being."
Hargrave, found guilty on three counts—first-degree attempted murder, second-degree attempted murder and first-degree assault—was sentenced to life in prison. He is appealing the conviction. Does Yvette have anything she wants to tell the man accused of burning her alive? "If you don't have anything good to say," Yvette says, "don't say anything at all."
If you are involved in an abusive relationship, Oprah says it's no accident you're hearing Yvette's story. "This is a message to you today to do something about it—to let her life be an example for your life, to take her strength and her bravery and her courage and allow you to have the same."