Woman sues for $10M, claims developer beat her repeatedly
June 3, 2016
By KAREN VELIE
At first, Michelle Jewsbury loved Ryan Petetit’s romantic gestures and, she said, the feel of his touch. Then he began choking her and slamming her against walls, according to a lawsuit filed in April.
Jewsbury, after filing a $10 million suit against Petetit, recounted her two-year turbulent relationship with one of San Luis Obispo County’s most prolific builders, complete with stories of high-rolling excursions with Petetit courting wealthy businessmen to invest in his and attorney John Belsher’s investment firm.
Belsher, 61, and Petetit, 28, are principals in dozens of development-related companies including Axis Engineering, Wright Homes and Communities, and PB Companies, according to company documents. Former consultants who worked with PB Companies claim Petetit and Belsher commingled investor funds, diverted investment monies, utilized shell companies and paid San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill to help promote their projects.
Petetit, who is currently facing five felony charges for reportedly choking another girlfriend and smashing her head through a window, has a long history of alleged brutal attacks against women.
In Jan. 2012, Petetit convinced Jewsbury to quit her job in Los Angeles and live with him at his Arroyo Grande home. Jewsbury said she was swept off her feet by a man who showered her with gifts and a luxury lifestyle she had never known before.
However, after about four months, Petetit at times would launch into jealous and often violent rages, according to the lawsuit.
In May 2012, Petetit allegedly became angry with Jewsbury at a San Luis Obispo bar and began pushing her and spitting on her. The next morning, Petetit apologized, blamed his drinking and claimed it would never happen again, according to the lawsuit.
However, “over the course of the next few months, Petetit’s emotional, sexual, and physical abuse of Jewsbury continued and began to escalate into more frequent physical violence, especially when Petetit was drinking,” according to the lawsuit.
In August 2012, the couple was socializing with friends in Santa Barbara when Petetit became angry, dragged Jewsbury from a bar and forced her into a taxi, according to the lawsuit. Back at their hotel room, Petetit placed both of his hands on her neck, pushed Jewsbury up against a wall and began to choke her, the lawsuit says.
After Petetit released Jewsbury, she began screaming, which brought Santa Barbara Police officers to the room.
Officers found Jewsbury sobbing with red marks on her neck and the room in disarray, according to police. The officers arrested Petetit and booked him into the Santa Barbara County Jail.
From the jail, Petetit began calling Jewsbury and begging her to forgive him and help him get out of jail. Jewbury posted his bail and picked Petetit up from the jail. She later refused to cooperate with prosecutors and the charges were dropped.
Again, Petetit returned to being a loving, romantic man, though it was short lived, according to the lawsuit.
While in Mexico with Jodi and John Belsher in Sept. 2012, Petetit began threatening Jewsbury that if she left him, he would kill her, according to the lawsuit.
Jewsbury said when she tried to reassure Petetit that she was not interested in other men, Petetit would respond violently.
In one incident, Petetit “placed his fingers in Jewsbury’s mouth, grabbed hold of her lower jaw, and pressed his fingers against the bottom palate of her mouth, causing Jewsbury severe pain and bleeding,” the lawsuit asserts. “While doing this, Petetit took his other hand and placed it around Jewsbury’s throat and squeezed hard to restrict airflow.”
Jewsbury said she feared Petetit would kill her if she reported what he had done or attempted to leave him.
On New Year’s Day 2013, Petetit, Jewsbury and a group of friends were celebrating at the Cliff’s Resort in Pismo Beach when Petetit threw a drink in Jewsbury’s face because he thought she was flirting with another man, according to several witnesses to the event who have asked to remain anonymous out of concern for their safety.
“A male stranger tried to stop Petetit, but Petetit hit him in the face so hard blood started to come from his nose,” the lawsuit says.
Jewsbury left the bar and Petetit followed, witnesses said.
Outside the club, Petetit grabbed Jewsbury by the throat, pushed her knocking her head into a concrete bench. Petetit then grabbed her head and smashed it several times into the concrete, a witness said.
“I thought he had killed her,” the witness said.
Pismo Beach police arrested Petetit for a misdemeanor charge of corporal injury and booked him into the San Luis Obispo County Jail. However, that charge, too, was eventually dropped.
One of the witnesses, a former friend of Petetit’s, said officers asked him to leave the scene and refused to take his statement at the time. The witness said Petetit later bragged that several members of his family, who are in local law enforcement, circulated stories that Jewsbury was a drunk who had falsely accused other boyfriends in the past in an attempt to get the charges dropped.
Jewsbury, who said she has never reported another boyfriend, ended the relationship with Petetit and moved back to Los Angeles. A few months later, Jewsbury returned to the relationship when Petetit promised to begin couples’ therapy, which he did.
Jewsbury said Petetit then begged her to stay in Los Angeles and not to communicate with San Luis Obispo County prosecutors.
In Sept. 2014, after suffering a final beating, Jewsbury said she ended her relationship with Petetit.
Jewsbury has since written a play titled, “But I Love Him…” which is showing at the Asylum Theater at 6470 Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood on Saturday at 1 p.m., June 16 at 7 p.m., and June 26 at 4 p.m., as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival.
When asked if the play was about Petetit, Jewsbury said she would not confirm or deny if the story line is based on her relationship with Petetit.
“In this daring performance, Michelle Jewsbury opens up about the harsh realities of her own personal past experience and shines a spotlight on an all too common issue that both men and women face: domestic violence,” a trailer for the play promises. “With her honest, bold and brave approach, Michelle, under the sharp direction of acclaimed solo artist and director Jessica Lynn Johnson, uses ‘But I Love Him…’ as an in-depth exploration of the very raw cycle of abuse and what it means to be a survivor.”
Petetit is currently facing five felony charges in San Luis Obispo County regarding a domestic violence incident involving another live-in girlfriend.
On, Nov. 22, 2015, an argument between Petetit and his then-girlfriend escalated at a home they shared in Arroyo Grande. It turned physical with Petetit allegedly pushing the victim and yelling, sources said. Petetit then allegedly grabbed the victim by the throat, choked her, dragged her to her feet, and shoved her head through a bathroom window, shattering the glass.
The victim attempted to escape, but Petetit allegedly slammed her head into the tile, took her phone and pushed her into a closet, refusing to release her, sources said.
The victim eventually fled to a family member’s home, who took her to a hospital.
On Thanksgiving Day, officers arrested Petetit at a family member’s home in Pismo Beach on charges of felony false imprisonment, felony battery with serious bodily injury, felony domestic violence, and a misdemeanor charge of disabling a wireless device. Petetit’s next court date is in August.