The December game between the sixth-grade girls' basketball teams from St. Therese Catholic Academy and St. Philomena Catholic School was already marred by unsportsmanlike conduct. But things ratcheted up when a player's mother ran onto the court and strangled an 11-year-old on the opposing team, according to King County prosecutors.
King County prosecutors have charged a Kent woman with felony assault, accusing her of grabbing the neck of a sixth-grade player on a Catholic girls school basketball team and strangling her nearly unconscious during a game in December, stopping only when the girl’s mother knocked her to the floor.
Monique Altheimer, 38, is charged with second-degree assault by strangulation for allegedly running onto the court, attacking an 11-year-old, and squeezing her neck so hard that the girl reported “everything going dark” and quiet before the woman was forced to release her. The girl complained afterward of dizziness, a raspy voice and a sore throat, the charges say, and had scratches and red marks on her neck.
The charges allege that Altheimer repeatedly elbowed another 11-year-old girl who tried to rescue her teammate.
A summons was mailed to Altheimer on Friday, ordering her to appear for arraignment at the King County Courthouse in Seattle on Aug. 2, court records show. Charging documents do not provide an explanation for why it took seven months for the felony assault charge to be filed.
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According to charging papers, the girls basketball team at Seattle’s St. Therese Catholic Academy, in Madrona, was hosting Des Moines’ St. Philomena Catholic School on Dec. 10. During the game, both teams complained to the referees and coaches about the “quality and conduct of each team’s play,” the charges say.
But one St. Therese team member stood out from the other children in her aggressive play and behavior and “there was a good deal of pushing and shoving, even off the ball,” a Seattle police detective wrote in charging papers.
By the third quarter, the referee had spoken to the St. Therese coach about the girl’s conduct and considered ending the game, but didn’t because he believed the coach was going to bench the girl and that would calm things down, say the charges.
But the coach let her play and a minute later, the St. Therese player got into an altercation with an 11-year-old on the St. Philomena team.
“Each child ‘bucked up’ to the other,” the detective wrote. “The two had apparent run-ins during the course of play throughout the game … (and the 11-year-old) was tired of it.”
When the St. Therese player punched the St. Philomena player, the St. Philomena player punched her back.
That’s when Altheimer — the mother of the St. Therese player — ran onto the basketball court, grabbed the St. Philomena player by the throat and told the girl, “Don’t touch my daughter ever again” while calling her obscenities, the charges say.
Another St. Philomena player later told police her teammate looked scared and tried backing away from Altheimer before she was strangled, say the charges. That girl tried to pull the 11-year-old away from Altheimer but was repeatedly elbowed by the woman. The 11-year-old also attempted to kick and push Altheimer away, but was unable to do so, according to charging papers.
The St. Philomena player was having difficulty breathing and was apparently losing consciousness when her own mother ran into Altheimer, knocking her to the floor and breaking her grip on the 11-year-old’s throat, say the charges.
Another player would later tell police the strangling didn’t end until the victim’s “incredible hulk mom” knocked Altheimer down.
As the St. Philomena team broke into tears from seeing the 11-year-old upset and crying, the “referee, coaches, and several parents ran onto the court in an attempt to break up and/or continue the fighting,” charging papers say. “Some parents were able to shuffle the children outside of the gym to a safe environment.”
By the time police arrived, Altheimer and her daughter, who has a different last name, had left the area.
The Seattle Times attempted to contact the principals of both schools but did not immediately receive a response.