BENTONVILLE — A woman who was robbed at knifepoint shortly after she arrived at work last year in Northwest Arkansas on Monday spoke to the assailant in court and gave him a Bible and the Book of Mormon.
The previous encounter between Connie Gonitzke and Matthew Vought was when Vought, armed with a pocketknife, robbed Gonitzke at Lifetime Dental in Rogers on Oct. 18, 2017.
Gonitzke told police she arrived at work at 6:50 a.m. to open the business. She said she later heard the chime when the door opened, but she didn't see anyone, according to a probable cause affidavit. Gonitzke said she was confronted by a man coming out of the treatment area.
Gonitzke said the man was holding a pocketknife and began walking toward her and demanded money. The man told her he was desperate and continued moving toward Gonitzke, according to the affidavit. The man ran after Gonitzke gave him $11 from her purse and $50 in petty cash from the office, according to court documents.
Vought, 38, of Rogers pleaded guilty Monday afternoon to robbery and drug charges under a plea agreement.
Gonitzke had a chance to speak to the court and Vought.
"Matthew, that dark morning last October is one I will never forget," she said. "I suppose you won't either. It was not just dark because the sun was not up yet, but there was a thick darkness that you brought with you when you entered the office with intention to do evil."
Gonitzke said she said a silent prayer to God when she saw Vought walking toward her with the knife.
"I have never been so afraid in my life," she said. "Thank you, Matthew, for not harming me."
She told Vought she wanted him to use his incarceration as an opportunity to change his life.
She gave Vought the Bible and the Book of Mormon.
Gonitzke was walking away when Vought turned to her. He apologized for his actions and told Gonitzke he had been addicted to drugs for years.
"I was blessed by the detectives finding me," he said.
The judge sentenced Vought to 26 years in the Arkansas Department of Correction. He must also abide by a suspended sentence agreement for six years after his release. Vought will have to serve at least six years before he is eligible for parole.