Country star Jana Kramer is opening up about her horrific first marriage, which found her in a downward spiral of domestic abuse that ultimately landed her ex in prison for attempting to kill her.
“I met Mike when I was 19 at a Coffee Bean in L.A. He was a smooth-talker, very charming, intriguing and obviously older,” Jana tells People of first husband Michael Gambino. “At the time, I liked that. I felt protected.”
As Kramer relates, “he’d come home at 3 o’clock in the morning and pick me up out of bed, throw me onto the ground and start yelling and hitting,” adding that she hid her bruises with makeup and didn’t tell anyone about what she was going through.
“Then the next morning he’d be like, ‘Hey, baby,’ as if nothing had happened.”
Finally, Kramer had enough. “When I said, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ he sent me a photo of my dogs on the freeway and said, ‘I’m going to let them go if you don’t come home’. He’d kick me out of the house, I’d sleep in the car and then that next morning I’d be with him in bed again,” she says.
Things went to a new level, however, when Gambino choked her to the point of unconsciousness in 2005, leaving her lying on the gravel in front of their home, bleeding.
“I remember praying that night, ‘Please, just take me away, I don’t want to be here anymore,’” says Kramer, who points out that she still has scars on her shoulder and arm from that night.
The attack led Gambino to be convicted of attempted murder, sentenced to six years in prison. He was released in 2010 and took his own life in 2012.
“I’m so embarrassed and afraid no one will love me because of my past, but I’m ready to put it out there now,” says Kramer, who is currently separated from her second husband, NFL tight end Mike Caussin. “If I can help one person, I’ll be thankful for what happened – and I can move forward.”