CLINTON, Md. — October 10, 2005 was a cool autumn day and slightly overcast.
Yvette Cade arrived at her job at a mobile phone store in Clinton, Maryland. She arrived at work before anyone else and settled in for a busy day with lots of customers.
Then at 4:28 p.m., surveillance video captured her estranged husband, Roger Hargrave, entering the store.
“I remember hearing him say 'I love you, Yvette' as he walked toward me,” Yvette said. “I didn’t think he was supposed to be there. I thought I had a protective order.”
Yvette recalls getting up from her chair, where she was working with a customer. Then Hargrave is seen on the surveillance video chasing Yvette and dousing her with a small bottle filled with gasoline. Then, in a back room, Yvette says he set her on fire.
“I felt like there was electric on my back,” Yvette said. “And I got up and started running … When I got into the showroom it felt like an inferno … I went back into the breakroom and started trying to spray my face at the sink.”
Yvette suffered severe burns over 60% of her body.
“I didn’t think he would ever do something like this to me. I just didn’t see it coming at all,” recounts Yvette from her Maryland living room. “I can’t even rationalize why he would set me on fire.”
Doctors did not know if Yvette would survive. But she did, and today she is a grandmother to twin grandsons. She shares a home with the 10-year-olds and her daughter Champane.
“Blessed. Perfection. Godliness. Love and faith,” that’s how Yvette describes her life today.
Her strength comes from her faith. A faith she embraced as paramedics were putting her into a helicopter that horrific October day.
“They put me in the helicopter and the woman asked me, ‘Are you with me? Are you with me?’ And I said, ‘Yes. I’m not gong to let him steal my joy.’ I’m thinking in my head, I’m not ready to die … I had the will to live.”
Yvette admitted there were earlier signs of abuse in their relationship.
“The first year of my marriage there was physical abuse,” Yvette recalled, wiping away tears. “The last 3 years was verbal … The verbal abuse. The verbal attacks. The verbal assaults. Even though somebody is not physically hitting you, but it’s the constant chipping away at your self- esteem.”
Eventually Yvette separated from Hargrave. But she said the calls kept coming.
She got a protective order. And in September, a few weeks before Hargrave set her on fire, Yvette was back in court asking for the protective order to be continued. The request was dismissed.
On the morning of October 10, 2005, Yvette said Hargrave kept calling her place of work and her cell.
“During one of the phone calls that I answered, he told me he was going to fry me like Crisco grease.”
Yvette’s ex-husband was sentenced to life in prison but is eligible for parole. When WUSA9 called the Maryland Parole Commission, we were told that Hargrave was scheduled for a parole hearing in 2017, but he asked for it to be postponed, and he has to write the parole board asking for another hearing.
“2008. 2006,” meanwhile, sitting in her home, Yvette opens a binder that holds letters she says Hargrave sent her from behind bars. “It’s disturbing. Last one he wrote was last year, 2021.”
“It sends [me] into panic and anxiety, even with him behind prison walls.”
“He acts like nothing ever happened.”
Yvette continues to need treatment for her physical scars. She experiences extreme tightness of her skin, and opening scar tissue. Dr. Tina Alster, with the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery, is helping her.
Then there are the nightmares and bouts with anxiety and PTSD.
“I still don’t go in the kitchen. I don’t like touching raw meat, and things like that.”
It’s her faith and family that gives Yvette her strength and purpose today. Especially her daughter, who was just 7 years old when Hargrave came into their lives.
“Domestic violence, it hurts everybody,” Yvette said. “Even though I’m the victim, it hurt my family, my friends, my co-workers. So it hurts everybody.”
“I think it affected me in the way of what could I have done,” said Champane. “And you try to replay that over and over again.”
Champane recalled a nightmare she had the night before the attempt on Yvette’s life. She was just 12 years old.
“I remember telling my mom I didn’t want her going to work. And I didn’t want to go to school. And I told her I had a dream and I saw someone running. But the person, I didn’t know who the person was.”
After Yvette was set on fire, she recalled handing her cell to two men on the showroom floor, asking them to find her daughter at school. “Because I was worried, he [Hargrave] might try to set my daughter on fire. I was trying to put myself out … All I could think about was my daughter.”
Seventeen years later, Yvette says she has found peace. She says she will always be there for other domestic violence victims. Speaking out for them and herself.
“Although I have these scars, beauty comes from within. If you don’t love yourself, and keep your cup half full, you won’t get the overflow,” she said. “The past 3 to 4 years I started practicing self-love. And giving back to me.”
“What I would like women to know is, don’t give up on yourself. Make sure you have enough love to give yourself.”
“Keep your cup full and give people the overflow.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.
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