Rebecca Kerr searches for a new normal

FRESNO, Calif.

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/*Rebecca Kerr*/ is trying to piece her life back together, and talking about that night in May for the first time publicly.

A group hug with her two children ended the worst two months of Kerr's life -- 59 days in the Fresno County Jail, wearing the green jumpsuit of an accused murderer.

Rebecca Kerr: "The hardest part about being in there was being away from my kids. I missed them so much and I know they needed me."

Rebecca Kerr tried to live a normal life with her family, her 14-year-old daughter, 19-year-old son and boyfriend, /*Michael Grimaldo*/.

Kerr and Grimaldo dated off and on for about two years, but for several months of that time, he was in the Fresno County Jail, convicted of battery against another man. Kerr was a witness to that crime. She says Grimaldo had violent outbursts at home too -- probably a couple every month -- and she was frequently the target of his rage.

Rebecca Kerr: "It just depended on the day -- how much he'd had to drink or how his day went at work."

But Kerr says she always thought things would change, Grimaldo would calm down, and they could settle into the patterns of a stereotypical family.

Rebecca Kerr: "I don't know how to explain it. I mean, I loved him. I thought it was good. I knew it wasn't good, but I wanted it to be good. I wanted it to be better."

It never was better. And five months later, Kerr killed Grimaldo. That Sunday night in May started out like many others: a get-together at Grimaldo's father's house, dancing, drinks and a fight. But Kerr says this disagreement was one of the worst.

Corin Hoggard: "Why do you think it was worse than usual?"

Rebecca Kerr: "Because there was no stopping him that day. I was scared. I didn't know who that was."

Kerr got free and drove home, blocking the door with a stick. Before long, Grimaldo was there too, and got inside the house. He threw Kerr on the bed, and then pushed her down the stairs, prompting a 911 call from Kerr's son.

911 Operator: "Is he hitting anybody?"

John: "No, but it happens."

911 Operator: "It happened? What happened?"

John: "No, like, he does hit, but..."

911 Operator: "Not tonight."

John: "No, not yet, but like, I just want him to get out of here before it gets bad."

But the police couldn't come fast enough. Kerr says Grimaldo's offensive became more violent. Right after her son's plea for help, Kerr and Grimaldo had their final fight.

Rebecca Kerr: "He cornered me in the kitchen by the refrigerator and I was telling him, 'stop. Calm down. Quit acting crazy.' and he's like, 'I am stupid. I am crazy. You want to see how crazy I am?' he was gonna hit me. He was gonna punch me. And I just grabbed a knife."

A coroner's report shows Kerr drove the kitchen knife almost four inches into Grimaldo's chest, tearing a major artery and puncturing his heart. Grimaldo stumbled out of the kitchen and into the front yard, where he collapsed. But Kerr says she didn't know the damage she'd done. She had her daughter lock the door and made her own call to 911 -- to get protection for herself and her kids.

911 Operator: "Did he threaten anybody?"

Rebecca Kerr: "Yes, he told me he was gonna kill me if I didn't let him stay here."

911 Operator: "Hold on. Stay on the phone with me as long as you can."

Rebecca Kerr: "I can't."

911 Operator: "Listen to me, where is he right now?"

Rebecca Kerr: "He just took off outside."

Kerr eventually realized Grimaldo was not getting up. When police arrived, she was covered in blood, giving him CPR. Officers took Kerr straight from the scene to police headquarters. She was detained and questioned for more than 12 hours before an officer told her Grimaldo was dead, and arrested her for murder -- a confusing end to a tragic night.

Rebecca Kerr: "I knew that I did the right thing. I had to. I had to. And I didn't understand why they kept me in there."

For two months, though, they did keep her in jail.

Rebecca Kerr's nightmare wouldn't end until her attorney made an unusual decision to convince prosecutors there was no murder.

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Family defends Michael Grimaldo
By Rick Montanez

The family of 32-year-old Michael Grimaldo said his killer, Rebecca Kerr, should still be locked up for murder.

Kerr stabbed to death her then live-in boyfriend, Michael Grimaldo, back in May. But after 59 days she was released from the Fresno County Jail because prosecutors said she acted in self-defense.

Kerr says Grimaldo was drunk and threatened her life the night she stabbed him, so she defended herself. She also said Grimaldo had often abused her before that night.

Michael Grimaldo's oldest sister, Laura Longhat, admits her brother had been violent in the past. That is something his criminal record proves.

But Longhat said Grimaldo loved Kerr and would never lay a hand on her. She doesn't believe Kerr was defending herself when she fatally stabbed Grimaldo at their home in northwest Fresno back in May.

Kerr was arrested shortly after police arrived to the home that night. Grimaldo died a few hours later. Now Kerr is a free woman, based on self-defense.

"He loved her so much, he would have never laid a hand on her," Longhat said. She told Action News Kerr's claim of self-defense is a lie.

Longhat said while Grimaldo was violent in the past, both with an ex-girlfriend and another man, she just can't believe he would physically harm Kerr.

Grimaldo and Kerr dated on and off for two years, during that time Longhat said she had witnessed several arguments.

"They had been in arguments," she said. "It was always pretty much when they had both been drinking. It was always over either an ex-boyfriend or an ex-girlfriend… they both had jealousy." In an exclusive interview, Kerr recently sat down with Action News to discuss what she called a volatile relationship.

That relationship ended fatally in May after a night of drinking, dancing and fighting at the home of Grimaldo's father.

"There was no stopping him that day," Kerr said. "I was scared, I didn't know who that was."

Kerr said she left Grimaldo behind and went home and blocked her door with a stick. According to family members, a drunken Grimaldo showed up sometime later.

"He was saying things to me that I can't even say that he was gonna do to me and the kids," Kerr said. "And he picked me up out of the bed and he slammed me back, slammed me on the bed."

Then, Kerr said, Grimaldo threw her down the stairs. Soon she was cornered in the kitchen. Fearing for her life, Kerr picked up a knife and stabbed Grimaldo in the chest.

But, Longhat said she can't believe that account. She said her brother's violent past is the reason Kerr is no longer being charged with murder. "She's one lucky lady, if it wouldn't have been for my brother's record, she wouldn't be out," Longhat said.

Longhat has not spoken to Kerr since the stabbing. She also said she and the rest of Grimaldo's family are staying away from Kerr and her two children.

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