ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - When Brittani Marcell awoke from a coma nearly five years ago, she thought she'd been in a car accident.
But the truth of what happened to the teen at her home on Albuquerque's northwest side was far more frightening and disturbing.
"I'm like, ‘What?' " said Marcell, now 22. " ‘Is that why I have the indentation on my head?' They're like, ‘Yeah.' "
What happened was this: A man broke into her home and used a shovel to pummel the then-17-year-old Marcell nearly to death. Her mother, Diane, arrived home just after the beating to have lunch with her daughter.
"I saw her at the bottom of the stairs," Diane Marcell said. "The blood was just so – it was enormous, all the blood."
And even worse than that, the man who beat Brittani was still in the house and threatened to deliver the same fate to Diane.
"He was grabbing for the biggest knife I had on the counter and he said some very profane words, and said that I was next," Diane Marcell said.
She ran and the man slipped out of the house.
Diane Marcell and even the paramedics who responded thought Brittani would die.
"This was a personal crime of hatred," Diane Marcell said.
Brittani had to re-learn to chew, swallow and walk after the attack, and is now deaf in her left ear and blind in her left eye. She's endured intense rehabilitation and more than a dozen surgeries.
"It hurts that somebody would do this to your child," Diane Marcell said. "Whether it was meant for her – nobody deserves what she went through."
Based on Diane Marcell's quick glimpse of the attacker, police released a sketch of him. The case also was featured in an episode of "America's Most Wanted." But despite receiving more than 40 tips, police got nowhere in tracking down the man.
"[It was] very frustrating because of so many dead ends," said Sgt. Liz Thomson, a homicide detective.
Nothing was stolen from the home so police don't think the man was a burglar.
Thomson said detectives re-visit Brittani's case a few times a year hoping an overlooked detail might jump out. Mainly though, police are pinning their hopes on fingerprints and blood the attacker left on a window as he fled the scene.
That DNA information was entered into a national crime database. If the attacker commits another violent crime and leaves DNA behind or is caught, Brittani's case could be solved.
"That DNA will be entered into the system," Thomson said. "We will come up with a match and come up with the offender."
Crimestoppers is offering up to a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the attacker's capture, while the Marcell family has raised an additional $30,000 reward.
Brittani and her mother now live far from the home where the attack took place. And while her physical scars may heal, the emotional pain and fear live on.
"That house haunts me," she said. "I'm afraid that this guy is going to come again and this time I'll be done. I won't be here anymore."
She said finding the attacker would quiet some of her nightmares.
"You forgive and you move on is what it is," she said. "As long as he's caught and he's served for the time for whatever he did, I'm OK with that. He needs to be caught one way or another."
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