Shaffer testifies he didn’t choke or threaten to shoot ex-girlfriend, who eventually punched him in eye

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Defense attorney Drew Schnack shows a photo of Cody Shaffer with a black eye — which he claims he suffered after Brittany Abercrombie punched him during a struggle on the morning of Jan. 27, 2023 — to the jury during his closing statement in Adams County Circuit Court on Tuesday afternoon. | David Adam

QUINCY — After hearing Brittany Abercrombie’s harrowing story about what she said happened in the early morning hours of Jan. 27, 2023, an Adams County jury heard a completely different version on Tuesday morning.

Cody Shaffer, 31, of Loraine testified on his behalf during the second day of his trial in Adams County Circuit Court before Judge Mark Vincent.

Abercrombie, Shaffer’s girlfriend at the time, was nine months pregnant when she said she was strangled, bitten and had a loaded gun shoved into her throat and pointed at her stomach by Shaffer. 

The jury heard during Monday’s testimony an approximately 15-minute audio recording made by Abercrombie with her phone. 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 was the last witness to take the stand. Defense attorney Drew Schnack started his line of questioning by going through Shaffer’s life, starting as a kid growing up in Loraine, his involvement in extracurricular activities at Unity High School, his graduation from John Wood Community College, how he worked at Dot Foods in Mount Sterling for 3½ years to help pay for his college education at Western Illinois University, and his law enforcement career, which started at the Mount Sterling Police Department in 2013 and ended with a stint with the West Central Illinois Task Force.

Shaffer told the jury that much of his law enforcement training was in self-defense and de-escalating situations.

“A lot of times with suspects and individuals, you find something in common with them such as a Harley Davidson sticker or the St. Louis Cardinals, anything like that,” Shaffer testified. “You try to find something on the same page as they have. Start talking to them. Verbal judo is the best thing an officer or deputy can have in your back pocket.”

Defense attorney Drew Schnack, right, asks questions to Cody Shaffer during his testimony Tuesday morning. | David Adam

“Did you try to do that with Brittany that evening?” Schnack asked. 

“I did,” Shaffer replied.

“Did it work?” Schnack asked.

“No,” Shaffer said.

Shaffer testified that he was involved in Abercrombie’s pregnancy, participating in a gender reveal party, taking her to get a sonogram in Moline and attending every doctor appointment —at least the ones she told him about.

“I was very upset and hurt that she would keep (the doctor’s appointments) from me,” Shaffer said. 

Shaffer said he was happy with his relationship with Abercrombie, but she was not. He testified that she left him for a couple of days on several occasions. He also believed she was developing a relationship with J.P. McLaughlin, an officer with the Macomb Police Department.

Shaffer said he went to the Mendon home of Ethan Duesterhaus, a friend since grade school, to pick up baby clothes for his yet-to-be-born child on the night of Jan. 26, 2023. After having a couple of beers at Duesterhaus’ home, the two went to Down on the Corner, a bar in Marcelline to shoot pool, play darts, eat pizza and have a couple of drinks. Shaffer said he drove Duesterhaus home, then drove to his Loraine home.

He said the last message he received on his phone from Abercrombie was at about 8:45 p.m. and that they didn’t argue throughout the night. He said he was not drunk when he came home. He claimed he simply wanted to kiss Abercrombie’s 2-year-old son good night, put the dogs out and go to bed. He said he checked in for work remotely at 8 a.m. the next day and then drove to work, denying Brittany’s claim that he stayed home until 9 a.m. to keep an eye on her.

Shaffer also denied Abercrombie’s claim that she asked him to leave her son alone that night.

Schnack then asked about Abercrombie’s recording.

“It’s accurate, isn’t it?” he asked.

“Yes,” Shaffer said.

“Are you proud of it?” Schnack asked.

“No,” Shaffer said.

Shaffer said he was “trying to go to sleep” during the first 10 to 12 minutes of the recording, while Abercrombie was “just laying there.”

At one point in the recording, Abercrombie was heard telling Shaffer to “get off.”

“Were you on her?” Schnack asked

“No. I was trying to give her a kiss goodnight,” Shaffer replied.

“She continued to repeatedly say (get off).  How did you take that?” Schnack said.

“At that point, I didn’t understand why she kept saying, ‘Get off me,’ so I was telling her to shut the f**k up,” Shaffer replied.

“Is that your de-escalation training?” Schnack asked.

“To use profanity? No,” Shaffer replied. “But to try to de-escalate why somebody was repeatedly saying ‘ow’ and ‘get off me?’ Yes.”

Shaffer said Abercrombie eventually punched his right eye. The two then struggled and fell on the floor. Shaffer testified that he never choked Abercrombie.

“If people are choking, they’re not talking or screaming,” he said.

Shaffer also testified he never hit Abercrombie with the Ruger .380 pistol as she claims he did. He also denied her claim that he made her load rounds into the gun’s magazine.

He testified that he believes Abercrombie’s motive for pressing charges against him was to prevent him from seeing his child.

Cody Shaffer testifies on Tuesday morning. | David Adam

Assistant State’s Attorney Josh Jones reviewed Abercrombie’s recording with Shaffer — in particular, statements of Brittany complaining about her head being pulled and how Shaffer was hurting her. Jones pointed out some the responses Shaffer gave:

  • “Are you done with your attitude and s**t?”
  • “It’s the same question. It’s the same question that was like three hours ago.”
  • “Is this done? Is this over? Can we get back to our relationship?”
  • “Don’t tell me you love me because I’m telling you. Tell me you love me because you like really f**king love me one time. Tell me you love me one time.”
  • “If I had your neck, I would f**ing grab that mother**ker.”
  • “God dammit, Brittany, you f**king shut the f**k up and stop. Shut the f**k up.”

Each time Jones asked Shaffer if he said those words, he followed with, “Is that de-escalation? Is that verbal judo? Is that an example of you just lying there in bed, trying to go to sleep?”

Jones also asked Shaffer if he wasn’t drunk if that was how he would normally act. Shaffer said yes.

Shaffer said Abercrombie punched him after the recording on her phone stopped.

“Is it after the audio stopped recording that you decided to de-escalate and use that verbal judo that we’ve heard so much about?” Jones asked.

“Yes, because things escalated,” Shaffer said.

“It wasn’t until after you said to her, ‘God dammit, stop, then stop and stop. Stop and I’ll stop,’” Jones said. “It wasn’t until after you said that that you decided to de-escalate the situation?”

“Yes,” Shaffer said. 

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