'My life was constantly threatened'

Ferrysburg man sentenced to 3-15 years for kidnapping, assault of ex-girlfriend
Becky Vargo
Mar 4, 2014

Even though a Ferrysburg man is going to prison for at least three years, the victim said she feels like she lost, because it should have been for much longer.

On the other side of the courtroom Monday, Kyle Clayton Christianson’s family members cried as he was taken away in chains, surprised that he was going to be behind bars for that long.

Following a three-day bench trial in late January, 20-year-old Christianson was convicted of kidnapping his former girlfriend, assaulting her and trying to strangle her. But because of Christianson’s clean criminal record, employment and his recovery from depression while in jail, Ottawa County Circuit Judge Jon Hulsing said he was deviating from the minimum 50-month prison term when handing down the sentence.

“Me, personally, I’m really surprised it was deviated,” said Christianson’s former girlfriend and victim, Journey Kopka.

The 18-year-old Grand Haven woman asked Hulsing to sentence Christianson to the full 15 years when she gave her victim statement at Monday’s hearing.

“I was kidnapped this last August by my ex-boyfriend, Kyle Christianson,” she said in her statement. “I was taken against my will, assaulted, strangled and (there was) weapon-to-skin contact with a felonious weapon.”

Kopka said Christianson’s “true personality” emerged after a year of dating.

“I was subjected to an abusive, controlling relationship,” she said. “I lost all privileges.”

The teen said she was condemned for what she wore, how she styled her hair and who her friends were.

“I became the girl you see on TV shows, who was stuck in a toxic relationship with no voice, no way out,” Kopka said. “I used to mock that girl, until I watched myself slowly turn into her. Covering up the bruises, lying about marks and scared of every next move — all because my life was constantly threatened.”

The charges stemmed from an incident on Aug. 27, 2013, when Kopka went missing with Christianson for two hours. She returned to her Grand Haven home that night disheveled and distraught, and telling her parents that “he took me.”

Kopka testified that Christianson forced her into his car and drove to random spots, including a couple of fast-food restaurants where she tried signaling for help, but was too afraid to say anything because of Christianson’s controlling behavior.

Christianson, who also threatened suicide, eventually returned Kopka to her home that night. He was arrested later that night and charged with operating while impaired.

The operating while impaired charge was dismissed on Monday when Christianson took advantage of a deal to plead guilty to a minor with an unlawful blood-alcohol level. Judge Craig Bunce sentenced him to pay a $785 fine or serve 78 days in jail.

Christianson has already served six months in jail, so he will receive credit for the time served.

His attorney, Rob German, said the jail time was a “blessing in disguise” because the effects of the attention deficit disorder medications he was taking at the time left his system.

“That feeling of anxiety, agitation and the other feelings associated with (the medication) slowly subsided,” German said. “That played a significant role in his way of dealing with things.”

Hulsing noted in his sentencing decision that the defendant becoming “emotionally stable” had an impact on the length of his sentence.

German said the sentence was reasonable given the gravity of the situation. The attorney said he hopes Christianson will take this benefit and turn it into something positive.

“I think Kyle will do that,” German said. “He’s a bright young man.”

Kopka said she is grateful to have at least 36 months to recover from the relationship.

She said since her abduction, she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and has been experiencing panic attacks, flashbacks, insomnia and nausea. A week before the trial in January, she said she became very depressed and ended up undergoing in-patient care on suicide watch.

Kopka said she is improving.

“The only grip of sanity I have is knowing I am safe now,” she said. “Kyle can no longer get to me.”
 

Comments

happycamper

I cant imagine why a women would want to stay in a abuse relationship, she had choices from the first date, its a known fact that people stay is because that's what their used to at home, verbal and physical abuse and they look for relationship smiler, i had a friend went thru a abuse relationship, married for 20 years, often i saw that person with bruises, broken arms, once in wheel chair, i ask why do you stay, because i have no where else to go and was threaten if she leaves, she is dead now, but maybe this girl is learning a lesson early and choose a happier life.

happycamper

double post

zwesterhouse

Justice will be served in prison. Those guys will kick him around like a football.

Grand Haven Happy

My feelings are that 15 years would be barely enough time to have to serve and NO I do NOT know anyone in the ordeal.

Most jail and prison sentences, especially for violent etc crimes or having caused death, are FAR to short and perhaps people should begin to notice the extremely high percentage of the offenders of our laws simply repeating their offenses or on innocent others again when they are released!

The killed are dead forever while the perpetrator of the death remains alive and usually gets released into society after a short sentence and that's just NOT right! The living victims are left with multiple scars both physically and mentally for decades or life. How is that right?

Then where do we usually find these perpetrators of death etc but most on our welfare rolls or on various assistance programs paid for by the working or right back in jail or prison for more criminal actions. We, the people, pay for them whether they are incarcerated or on the public dole when not incarcerated and their victims "pay" so much more in so many ways. How stupid are we anyway???

Grand haven user

The girl is over reacting, and crying for attention. It takes two to create a toxic relationship. This girl has a screw loose.

happycamper

that's what i thought at the beginning, i have seen it before

thecatsmom

This loser should be in jail for at least ten years. He is a true threat to society!

bertnut

I know this guy and I believe everything she is saying. He thinks life owes him. He has done this before, so he is right where he belongs. Hope Journey goes on to have a safe life...no one deserves that kind of treatment

happycamper

I like the look on the girls face in the picture above, like, got even, look

ghecko0609

If you don't have all the facts, you should keep your opinions to yourself.
The two of them were never meant to be together. She was just as controlling as she creates him to be. They were both insecure and immature.
There was no PHYSICAL evidence for conviction. Perjury was committed on the stand by the alleged victim and another witness. This goes to show when a girl call's wolf everyone comes a running. After being strangled, driven around, stopping for food twice and then being brought home safely, all in two hours ! The victim had no signs of assault, strangulation,or even a rise in her blood pressure when arriving at NOCH according to doctors report. She didn't even want to go to hospital,proven by the 911 call. This case is nothing but a toxic couple that didn't know how to end their relationship. A spitefull girl that admitted "she wanted to put him away for a long time" and "make sure she ruined his life". That comment was made day after while she was at her first day at a new job. I don't know about you but if I was kidnapped, strangled and assaulted I sure as hell don't think I could go to work the next day ! She didn't even know she was strangled that night according to police report. It magically came up 2 days later (with no MARKS). Whole story is a crock ! Ottawa County is just looking for more convictions to add to there 99% conviction rate and this is the first Strangulation charge in the state of Michigan. Go Blue !

My girlfriend's son is 2 years younger than this girl. He was srangled at school for approximately 30-40 seconds before the staff were able to pull the other boy off of him. By then he was losing consciousness, had significant bruises on his neck, sore throat, and could not swallow without pain for 2 days. Where is evidence please?? I am sorry, I see none of that. I cannot believe that they would eat nuggets after that...

LIAMD

Kinky asphyxiation !

CampinFool

O brother. Does anybody besides me know symptoms for bipolar disorder??? You twist the truth til it fits you and while doing so, you make damn sure you are the center of attention..

Grand haven user

As someone who knows this girl all she wants is attention. She just has a terrible personality and does anything to get attention....even faking a story like this. I knew her in high school and she isnt the most honest/sane person youd meet.

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