The 10 p.m. cell phone call woke the couple from a deep sleep Wednesday night.
"Run, run!" said the caller, Shirley Barthel's son, Andrew. "Dad's a hundred feet from the house. He's got a loaded shotgun, and he's going to try to kill you."
The couple did just that. Shirley and Jason Freeman ran from the guesthouse at 6313 Darrow Road. Freeman reached his father's home to call 911. Shirley froze in the clearing when her estranged husband stepped from the shadows of the woods and yelled her name.
Then she saw the gun -- a 12-gauge Winchester shotgun deputies later learned had three shells in it -- one in the chamber with the safety off.
William "Bill" Barthel Jr., the 55-year-old man from whom Shirley filed for divorce in January, pressed the gun to her right temple. The two struggled on the ground for the gun as he dragged the 48-year-old by her hair toward the road.
"I felt so helpless," Freeman said, recalling what he described as a terrifying night. "I heard him say he was going to kill her. She was pleading for her life."
Erie County Sheriff's Capt. Paul Sigsworth said it's fortunate the gun didn't go off while the two struggled.
"A mere pull of the trigger, and that weapon would have fired," he said, calling the situation "very, very volatile."
While struggling, Shirley said they heard "something or someone behind them." Reports indicated William stopped and said he "hoped it was Jason" and he "wanted to kill Jason as well."
But it was Freeman's chihuahua, Butch, who lunged at Bill.
"That little chihuahua stood his ground," Freeman said. "He was all over him."
The distraction allowed Shirley to free herself just as sirens sounded in the distance.
"He pitched the gun in the driveway and took off," said Freeman, 36, adding that five deputies were there moments later and chased Bill into the woods.
Deputy Adam Klepper found Bill lying in a creek bed and, at gun point, ordered him to show his hands. The sheriff's report said Bill refused, stood up and ran deeper into the woods while reaching toward his waistband.
Not knowing if Bill was still armed, Klepper yelled again for him to stop and then zapped him with a Taser gun.
Deputies who took Bill into custody noted the man had several scrapes on his body and appeared to be "highly intoxicated."
After securing Bill in a cruiser, deputies gathered information from Shirley -- who was "visibly upset, crying and shaking" -- about the night's events, which Sigsworth said could have been "much, much worse."
Bill refused to answer deputies' questions or talk about the incident. He was charged with domestic violence, felonious assault, two counts of violating a civil protection order, using a weapon while intoxicated and obstructing official business.
He is being held without bond at the Erie County jail pending his arraignment at 8:30 a.m. today in Erie County Municipal Court.
Sigsworth said the prosecutor's office is reviewing the charges and it would be up to the prosecutor to determine whether Bill, 9308 Darrow Road, Vermilion, will face more serious charges, such as attempted murder.
Court records show the couple long struggled to keep themselves safe from Bill. Two civil protection orders were issued in May and July against him. The protection orders, issued in Erie County Common Pleas Court, required him to stay away from Freeman and Shirley.
The couple said they are now concerned what will happen if he is released from jail.
Freeman said Bill threatened him after being taken into custody, saying, "I'm going to come back and get you. You got something coming."