I heard something at the door. On the way to see who it was, I remember looking at the time. It was close to 7:30 a.m. I glanced out the window and saw Brian Pennington, the handyman that I had used a few weeks ago. I did not have a scheduled appointment with him and I remembered that he lived far away, close to Warrensburg, MO, about an hour and a half away. I rationalized his presence on my doorstep. He must be working in the area and wondering if I have more work that needs to be done. He never voiced this.
It was odd for him to show up that early. He had never arrived that early when he had come to my house previously for work. Looking back, I realize that I had an odd feeling about this. But I ignored the significance of my instincts. I didn’t want to be rude.
I was very close to being ready to leave for work. We had someone in our department on vacation and I wanted to be there a little early. I remember answering the door and having a conversation about Brian wanting to show me something in the basement that he thought would be good to have fixed. I didn’t think too much about this because he knew that I was getting the house ready to put on the market.
We headed to the basement. I was leading and talking on the way. He did not say anything on the way down. Not an ok, uh-huh, no acknowledgement whatsoever of my words.
We reached the bottom of the stairs. After taking a few steps, Brian grabbed me around the neck. I felt a lot of pressure all of the way around my neck and I remember being very confused and asking him, “What are you doing?”
I remember thinking that I should know what to do when someone strangles you. I should know how to get out of this. My voice faded quickly and I passed out. I came to and tried to fight back, grabbing at Pennington. Everything happened so fast. I told him to get out of my house and again asked him, “What are you doing?”
I was left on the floor in the basement.
My coworkers were my angels on earth that day.
Shortly after 8 a.m., it was apparent to several of my coworkers that I was not in the office. Since I had been at work on Tuesday, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary, they initially thought that I must have had a dentist appointment or another previous commitment.
When I was not present for the weekly 10 a.m. Operations Meeting, my coworkers began to express their concern. Coworkers began checking with each other and with HR for information. No one had heard from me. They tried to call and send texts but received no response. It was very out of character for me to be absent from work and not contact someone about it.
At approximately 11:30 a.m., a coworker decided to drive to my house and check on me. When he arrived at my house, he saw that my car was in the driveway, but the house appeared to be totally dark. He attempted to ring the doorbell, but didn’t hear anything so he wasn’t certain that it was working. He knocked again rather loudly, but of course there was no response.
My coworker went to his car and called another co-worker to tell her what he had done and what he had seen. They then decided to call a law enforcement friend in another jurisdiction and ask for advice. The officer told them to call the Prairie Village Police Department and request a “welfare check” at my residence.
The police officers found me in the basement in a pool of blood and called an ambulance.
The next thing I remember is my dad sitting in the bed beside me. I was at St. Luke’s Hospital. It was about 10 days later.
The injuries I suffered were extensive.
1. Several fractures to the skull and face. One skull fracture on the left side of my eye near my temple, which left my muscles in my left eye and eyelid weakened. The doctors said this could have only been done by being hit with an object or kicked.
2. Several ¼” deep, 6” long knife wounds in my neck. 2 on the side and 2 on the front of my neck.
3. Severe brain concussion and severe brain swelling.
4. Stitches around my eyebrows from cuts on the face.
5. No sexual assault.
When my mother and my son saw me, they declared that I was unrecognizable. A normal picture of me was placed above my head in the hospital so doctors would know what I looked like.
Doctors have said that I could not have lasted much longer without medical attention and were surprised I lasted as long as I did with the injuries I had sustained.
In the medical field, there are 5 levels of trauma. Level 1 is the worst. At Level 1 the injured patient’s chances of survival is estimated at 20% – 25%. I was a Level 1 trauma patient.
On September 13, 2010, my fifth day in the hospital, there was an arrest. The Johnson County District Attorney’s Office arrested Brian K. Pennington and charged him with attempted first-degree murder. He was held in Benton County, MO on $1 million bail.
Pennington eventually pleaded guilty to the charges of attempted first-degree murder and aggravated assault. He was sentenced to 28 years in prison.
When I reflect on this whole experience, I don’t feel angry because I know that anger will not get me anywhere. I still have a difficult time understanding the hows and whys behind this whole ordeal. But my goal of helping others so that they know what to look for when they find themselves in a bad situation, has been a positive force in my healing process because it has allowed me to turn something awful into something productive.