‘Get off me!’: Former girlfriend tells jury how she was beaten, strangled and threatened to be shot by Loraine man

Abercrombie during audio

Brittany Abercrombie buries her face in her hand as she listens to a recording she made of an altercation she had with then-boyfriend Cody Shaffer in their Loraine home on Jan. 27, 2023. At left is court reporter Marshae Husted. | David Adam

QUINCY — An Adams County jury of six men and six women listened to a recording Monday afternoon during which a Loraine woman, nine months pregnant at the time, claims she was strangled, bitten and had a loaded gun shoved into her throat and pointed at her stomach by her boyfriend.

The jury trial for Cody R. Shaffer, 31, of Loraine began Monday in Adams County Circuit Court before Judge Mark Vincent. Shaffer has been charged with:

  • Armed violence, a Class X felony, punishable for between six and 30 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections;
  • Aggravated domestic battery by strangulation, a Class 2 felony, punishable for between three and seven years in prison; and
  • Aggravated battery of a pregnant person, a Class 3 felony, punishable for between two and five years in prison.

After jury selection and opening statements, Brittany Abercrombie was the only witness to testify Monday afternoon. She said she had been dating Shaffer, a deputy with the Brown County Sheriff’s Department and a member of the West Central Illinois Task Force, since February 2022. She and her 2-year-old son eventually moved into Shaffer’s home in Loraine. She was pregnant with Shaffer’s child and due to deliver on Feb. 23, 2023.

Most of Abercrombie’s testimony was about the night of Jan. 26, 2023, and the early morning hours of Jan. 27, 2023.

She said Shaffer left their home between 6:30 and 7 p.m. on Jan. 26 and went to a friend’s house. She said he didn’t return home until midnight or 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 27. 

When Shaffer came home, she said she laid in their bed and pretended to be asleep because she could tell he was mad from the tone of the Snapchats he had sent her that night. She said Shaffer had been drinking and stumbled into the house, and he asked where her son was.

“I asked him to please leave (her son) alone, to just go to bed because he had been drinking and I didn’t want my son to see him,” Abercrombie testified. “I just wanted him left alone.”

She said Shaffer went into her son’s room and kissed him before returning to their room.

She then emotionally and tearfully described how Shaffer straddled her in bed and kept begging her to tell him she loved him. 

“I wanted him to get off me and leave me alone,” Abercrombie said.

“Did he get off?” Assistant State’s Attorney Laura Keck asked.

“No,” Abercrombie replied.

“Did he leave you alone?” Keck asked.

“No,” Abercrombie replied.

She said she eventually pushed Shaffer off of her, and the two rolled onto the floor. She said Shaffer then walked to a gun cabinet and pulled out a Ruger .380 pistol that he had given her for Christmas.

“He took it out and brought it over to me sitting in bed,” Abercrombie said. “He put it in my lap. He made me load every bullet. He made me put one in the chamber, and he told me he would rather his daughter be dead than to ever pay child support or have a child on this earth he couldn’t see again.

“He told me that he just wanted me back, and he knew what he was doing. He told me he knew what he was giving up that night. He told me that if I didn’t think he could kill somebody that I was mistaken.”

Abercrombie then said Shaffer held the gun to her head.

“He told me all the different ways of how he would do it,” she said. “He told me he was too big of a coward to shoot me, that he wanted it to be more personal for me.”

Abercrombie said Shaffer put the gun underneath her chin, then told her to close her eyes and take a deep breath.

“I placed myself so my son wouldn’t see what my brain (would look) like on the wall,” she said. “He said, ‘No one ever gets to open their eyes after that. I hope you know that.’”

Abercrombie then said Shaffer put the gun to her stomach. 

“He said he’d rather be dead,” she testified. “All I can do is beg him for his firstborn daughter, for her sake.”

Abercrombie said Shaffer’s threats continued for three hours. Her son then came into the room and climbed into bed, and Shaffer finally stopped. 

“(Shaffer) went to sleep holding him tight like nothing happened,” she said.

Abercrombie said she stayed awake with her eyes closed until his alarm went off later that morning. 

“With my son laying there, he told me not to make him regret what he didn’t do,” she said.

She said she made breakfast for her son, then made lunch and coffee for Shaffer before he left for work. However, she didn’t call the police immediately.

“His exact words were that if my dad or ‘cherries and berries’ (the police) walk through that front door, not only was I done but so are they,” she said.

After Shaffer left, Abercrombie said she waited a half-hour before throwing clothes into a duffel bag and driving off with her son. She said she stopped in Monmouth to call her family. She didn’t call the Quincy Police Department or the Adams County Sheriff’s Department because Shaffer had several friends on each.

Abercrombie said she drove to her brother’s home in Manteno and started having contractions. She eventually was examined by doctors at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox. The jury was shown photos from that examination, showing what Abercrombie described as bruises around her neck, arms and knee as well as a bite mark on her hand. One photo showed a cut under her chin, which Abercrombie said was caused by Shaffer holding the gun there.

Abercrombie then testified that as she heard Shaffer come home that night, she pressed a button on her phone to record a video and placed it face down.

The jury then heard an approximately 15-minute audio recording. Most of the beginning of the recording was either muffled inaudible sounds or silence. Abercrombie eventually could be heard saying “Get off me!” multiple times, as well as “Leave me alone” and “Let go of my neck.” 

Shaffer asked, “Can we get back to our relationship?” and “Tell me you love me one time.” Near the end of the recording, as the confrontation between the two got louder, Shaffer told her several times, “Shut the f**k up and stop.”

Drew Schnack, Shaffer’s attorney, asked Abercrombie if she and Shaffer shared phone calls and Snapchat messages that night. She said they did, but she eventually blocked Shaffer on Snapchat and deleted the feed from him, destroying all previous messages.

“The only evidence of this argument between you and Cody is what you tell us, correct?” Schnack asked. “There’s nothing in the world to verify it.”

Abercrombie said troopers with the Illinois State Police told her to block Shaffer from her son. 

“I was also told to block his number from my phone and to remove him from my Snapchat so he could not contact me because I was in the hospital,” she said. “That’s why everything was blocked.”

“The reason you don’t have any evidence for us is because the Illinois State Police told you to destroy it,” Schnack said.

Schnack then asked Abercrombie to read Snapchat messages retrieved from Shaffer’s phone. One from her said, “I’m really sorry that you feel like all I do is yell at you and I will stay out of your way and I won’t say a word to you.” She later said she wouldn’t speak to him unless they were talking about their children.

Schnack then read to Abercrombie statements she made during a Feb. 22 hearing and a hand-written statement she provided that described what happened on Jan. 26-27. He said she never mentioned being afraid of Shaffer, nor did she mention she was bitten, that they had an argument or that she had asked him not to go into her son’s room that night.

“Are you just making it up as you go?” Schnack asked.

The trial will resume at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Drew Schnack motions toward his client, Cody Shaffer, during his opening statement Monday in Adams County Circuit Court. | David Adam

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