(This story is part of a continuing series, An Assault in Venice. Part 1 starts here.)

It was Thursday, February 11th, four days after the attack, and Jeanette was having her first surgery. Her sister Karen had basically begged the hospital administrators to let Jeanette stay, and they had miraculously agreed despite knowing that all the expensive procedures would very likely go unpaid.

Not only would she be allowed to stay at UCLA, but apparently she was about to win the surgical lottery. None of us knew anything about Dr. Keith Blackwell; we simply prayed for a capable surgeon who would help us. At the time, we were oblivious to the fact that Dr. Blackwell was “among the most experienced and busiest surgeons in the southwestern United States… Visiting scholars from universities in Korea, Japan, Italy, Germany and the Philippines [had] traveled to UCLA to learn his surgical techniques.” (In fact, it is only now as I write this that I have discovered his impressive accolades.)

I spent most of the day in the surgical waiting room with Karen and David. It would take Dr. Blackwell and his team more than six hours to repair the damage to Jeanette’s face. The bones in her right cheek and eye socket had been crushed, with pieces seemingly everywhere. Her nose was caved in and blocked. There was a fracture that extended from her right cheek, through her right eye socket, across the bridge of the nose and through the left eye socket. And the two halves of her skull were twisted making her bite out of alignment. Once they’d put all the broken bones back in their proper place, her jaw would have to be wired shut in order to stabilize them.

CONSULTATION: Head & Neck Surgery

The patient is a 38-year-old, well-developed woman who communicates in a strong, clear voice. She was admitted to UCLA Medical Center on February 8, 1999, for treatment of injuries sustained in an assault. She was brought in with no memory of the assault, having been found by her neighbor in her home. Her evaluation since arrival has included CT scan of the head that revealed no injuries of the brain; however, severe fractures of the midface were seen. Specifically, there appears to be a fracture through the lateral orbital wall, the zygomatic arch, anterior maxillary wall and posterior maxillary wall on the right side. There is another fracture in the region of the right glenoid fossa. Finally, there are additional fractures through both the left and right nasal bones.

The midface fracture is most likely classified as a Lefort III. She has severe fractures through the walls of the orbit with prolapse of orbital contents through the orbital floor and into the maxillary antrum. She has significant loss of projection at the right malar eminence, secondary to rotation and collapse of the right zygomatic arch. Her nasodorsal fracture is buckled and deviated to the left side. These fractures would all benefit from surgical reduction in order to restore her dental occlusion, facial contour, orbital volume and nasal airway.

In the few days that we’d known them, Karen and David had become family. We spent days together at the hospital and nights at Rob and Amy’s, otherwise known as Fort Venice. The close proximity and the heightened emotions forced an intimacy that we all cherished, each of us wearing our vulnerability on the outside and not making any effort to hide it. We were raw.

Karen’s brow seemed forever furrowed, her eyes sullen and bloodshot. When she spoke, her voice was often shaky and uncertain. She was reeling. David wore a façade of the strong and silent. His military background made him appear detached but day after day, his walls crumbled. During his sister’s surgery, he sat in the waiting room, drawn into himself, and he cried.

They were both eager to know what was happening with the investigation. I had kept them up to date with my encounters with Cagney but so far, all the news was bad news—no leads, no evidence, no answers, no resolution. They were mystified. How could this happen? And why?

I wondered if I should tell them about my conversations with John Edward. Neither of them seemed to be the sort of people who were open to psychic phenomenon. But I wanted them to have a sense of hope. So during the long hours in the silence and gloom of the surgical waiting room, I told them it was possible we actually did have some leads. I started cautiously, telling them I had a friend who sometimes worked with the police in New York on difficult cases: a psychic friend. They took it in without reacting. When I told them I’d shared information with Cagney that she was following through on, they became slightly more interested. And then, when I read them my notes, they seemed to reach for them like a life raft. There was no denying that the information was incredibly specific. And it kept coming. At Cagney’s urging, I had called John again.

  • He’s male. Hispanic or light black, 25-35 years old.
  • Not too tall, medium build, thick lips, round, thick face—not square.
  • He’s mentally off—chemically or otherwise. There’s a drug connection.
  • His name has a strong R: Ronald, Richard, maybe Arthur.
  • It wasn’t a forced entry.
  • She didn’t see him coming and didn’t hear him. He comes from behind. It wasn’t nighttime, it was still light outside.
  • It’s a random act of violence. He’s done it before, and he has a record.
  • He hopped the fence.
  • He doesn’t live very far away.
  • There are fingerprints everywhere: on the left wall inside the door, by the counter and sink, there’s broken glass and fingerprints on the glass.

I explained to Karen and David that these were only the latest in a series of notes I’d taken. I told them that I was meeting Cagney that night to question prostitutes and neighbors, and that Cagney was spending hours at the station running information through the computer. Karen and David seemed buoyed by the news.

…go to Part 10