A college roommate of the woman who has accused Republican governor candidate James Comer of assaulting her said Friday that she witnessed emotionally abusive behavior by Comer toward the woman.
Jennifer Osborne said she rented an apartment with Marilyn Thomas during a time in 1993 when Thomas and Comer dated while at Western Kentucky University.
Osborne said there was one occasion when Comer and Thomas got involved in a heated argument at the apartment.
Osborne said she felt frightened and angry at Comer and threatened to call police. Comer left at her request, Osborne said.
Never miss a local story.
Osborne said she could not recall if she had personally witnessed any alleged abusive behavior by Comer toward Thomas anytime other than the incident at the apartment.
However, she said she saw Thomas upset at times while on the phone with Comer, and had heard telephone messages from him she considered offensive.
"A lot of yelling, name-calling, things of that sort," Osborne said in an interview Friday. "It was a very volatile relationship."
Comer is seeking the GOP nomination for governor. The other candidates are Louisville businessmen Hal Heiner and Matt Bevin and former Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott.
The race has been roiled the last few days by an allegation from Thomas that Comer hit her when they dated in college, was emotionally abusive and drove her to a clinic in Louisville in 1991 to have an abortion.
Comer has vehemently denied all three allegations.
Asked about Osborne's allegation on Friday, Comer sent this statement to the Herald-Leader: "I have hundreds of close friends who I spent the majority of my time at WKU with and every one of those hundreds of friends will vouch for my character."
Comer said he and his wife, TJ, "have answered the allegations by Miss Thomas. I am completely focused on closing this election out talking about the issues — like creating jobs and saving the Teachers Retirement System — that Kentuckians care most about."
People who knew Comer in college have told the Herald-Leader they did not see any abusive behavior from him, though another college roommate of Thomas' told The Courier-Journal she sometimes saw bruises on Thomas. That roommate, Wendy Curley, also said she remembered Comer bringing Thomas back to the dorm room she shared with Thomas after the abortion was performed in November 1991.
Osborne said she did not remember Comer ever hitting Thomas.
Osborne said she was not comfortable providing the name of anyone else who might have knowledge about the relationship between Comer and Thomas.
Osborne is a veterinary technician. She is in her early 40s, is married and lives in Oldham County, according to her attorney, Paul O'Bryan.
Osborne said she decided to issue a statement because she was "appalled" over what she saw as lies by Comer during a news conference he held earlier this week to deny Thomas' allegation of abuse.
Osborne said she had been in contact with Thomas a few weeks ago, and that Thomas did not want to say anything about her relationship with Comer.
However, after a story in the Herald-Leader about communication between people affiliated with the Heiner campaign and a Lexington blogger who was trying to discredit Comer with posts about Thomas, Thomas sent the Courier-Journal a letter alleging abuse by Comer in the early 1990s.
Thomas has not responded to the Herald-Leader's requests for an interview.
Osborne said she did not know Thomas planned to send the letter to the Louisville paper, but afterward, Thomas asked if she would consider talking with a reporter from the paper.
Thomas did not push her to come forward, and she had already decided to make a statement, Osborne said.
She said she wanted to support Thomas.
O'Bryan said Osborne sent a short statement to the Courier-Journal Friday. With Osborne's permission, O'Bryan also sent the statement to a man named Shannon Ragland, who posted it on a website he runs called Jury Verdict Publications.
Osborne said she was not affiliated with any political campaign.