[Editor's note: This post contains graphic images.]
Last Saturday, Gina Antonelli spent the evening on a party bus in Boston celebrating her birthday.
But the celebration quickly took a dark turn on the car ride home. That's when her boyfriend, James Armato, began to brutally beat and choke her.
The former MMA fighter choked her so hard that she passed out while driving and crashed the car.
According to reports, the Malden Fire Department discovered Gina around 2:30 in the morning. Her boyfriend was still choking her, and he even tried to fight one of the firemen who approached the crash scene.
The aftermath of the beating is truly heartbreaking. Gina's cousin Jennifer posted this picture from the hospital:
The post reads:
"I'm sorry for the extreme graphics of this picture. I am also sorry that this is the extremely brutal reality of what an abusive relationship looks like. No one should ever have to go through this. This is the result of a sick and twisted excuse of a man. No more excuses, changing stories and hiding the truth. I will be dammed to let one more person try to protect this piece of shit.
My cousin is so strong, beautiful, independent and full of life and he could've taken all of that away from our family. I'm so unbelievably thankful that she is pulling through this. Her story needs to be shared and bring awareness to these monsters. And to warn everyone of this monster: James Armato."
James Armato was known as “the Joker” when he fought professionally. His short-lived career consisted of a win and two losses.
Gina's sister Nancy Coppi has set up a Go-Fund-Me page to help with Gina's medical bills, which will likely stack up to be thousands of dollars.
Nancy detailed the horror that her sister endured this past weekend:
"Gina was attacked by her boyfriend very early Sunday morning where she was then transported to Mass General and then Mass Eye and Ear for injuries to her face and neck after he strangled her to the point that she passed out.
“She woke up to the horrifying reality that this MMA trained fighter was still continuously punching her and strangling her.”
Gina herself has finally spoken out, telling NECN about the humiliation she feels:
“What are my friends going to think of me? I'm so embarrassed that I even let this happen.”
Still, she allowed her cousin to post the upsetting photo of her in the hospital in hopes that it will help others:
"It was always me wanting to help him and fix him.
“...Push for your life. Don't live your life for somebody else.”
Ultimately, she doesn't want this to break her spirit:
“I feel like eventually, down the road, I will be able to find forgiveness for him.”
As of now, the family has raised almost $15,880 of their $20,000 goal. While Gina recovers, countless strangers have poured out their concern through social media.
James Armato has been arrested and held without bail. He'll face charges of strangulation, attempted murder, assault and battery, and resisting arrest.