Surgeon in Treacy trial: ‘Ratley lucky to be alive’

Josie Lou Ratley, the Deerfield Beach teenager attacked at school in March 2010, sustained permanent brain damage from the vicious assault, a doctor testified Tuesday in the attempted first-degree murder trial of Wayne Treacy.

07/10/2012 5:00 AM

07/10/2012 7:05 PM

Josie Lou Ratley is lucky to be alive, and she likely will have trouble creating any new memories for the rest of her life because of the savage beating she suffered at the hands and feet of Wayne Treacy, said the neurosurgeon who first operated on Ratley following the attack at Deerfield Beach Middle School in March 2010.

Testifying at Treacy’s trial for attempted first-degree murder in Broward criminal court on Tuesday, Dr. Randall Powell of Broward General Medical Center said Ratley arrived at the hospital with such extensive brain injuries that he didn’t expect her to survive.

“I think it’s a miracle that she’s alive,’’ he told jurors.

Powell said the first operation he performed on Ratley was to remove a blood clot to stem the bleeding in her brain. But as soon as he removed the clot, Powell said, Ratley’s brain began to swell uncontrollably — so much that the neurosurgeon could not replace the left half of her skull.

He told the jury that Ratley’s condition was called “malignant brain edema’’.

“It means it’s happening fast, and it’s happening bad, and it can kill you,’’ he said.

After about five weeks in pediatric intensive care, including two weeks in a coma and another surgery to remove a blood clot on the right side of her brain, Ratley improved, Powell said, and her cerebral swelling had subsided enough that he could finally replace the left side of her skull.

But the brain injuries Ratley suffered are likely to last her lifetime.

“She has some degree of permanent brain damage to the left and right temporal lobe,’’ Powell said.

The temporal lobes contain “memory circuits,’’ the neurosurgeon explained, and it’s the part of the brain that files new memories.

“She will have significant issues, I’m afraid, with integrating new memories,’’ he said.

Ratley also is not likely to remember “99 percent” of Treacy’s attack, or her time in the hospital, the surgeon said.

Students who witnessed the attack described the vicious beating for jurors Tuesday.

Quadiasha Moss, 16, said she was standing in the bus area of Deerfield Beach Middle School when she saw Treacy suddenly shove Ratley to the ground without warning.

“He was stomping his feet on the girl, and he had her head and he was banging it into the ground,’’ she told jurors.

Moss said she saw Treacy slam Ratley’s head into the concrete floor about five times, and kick her in the head another three times.

Treacy was wearing steel-toed boots when he attacked Ratley, said Walter Welsh, a seventh-grade social studies teacher who testified that he tackled Treacy to stop the attack.

Welsh said he only saw part of the attack, when Treacy kicked Ratley in the head. Afterwards, the girl laid on the ground motionless.

“She was in the fetal position facing the office with blood coming out of her ear,’’ he said.

As he led Treacy by the arm down a hallway to the principal’s office, Welsh said he asked the boy: “What the f--- were you thinking about?’’

“He responded with his head down, ‘She talked about my dead brother,’’’ Welsh said.

Ratley and Treacy, both of whom were 15 years old at the time, had never met. But Treacy had been contacted via Ratley’s cell phone by his girlfriend, who did not own a cell phone but had borrowed Ratley’s to communicate with Treacy.

Ratley disapproved of the relationship, however, and told Treacy when she got her cell phone back from Treacy’s girlfriend.

The exchange escalated into violence after Ratley sent Treacy a text message telling him to go visit his dead brother, Michael Bell, who hanged himself from a tree in the parking lot of New Covenant Church in Pompano Beach in October 2009 — a scene witnessed by Treacy, and which his defense attorneys claim led to his suffering post-traumatic stress disorder.

Treacy, 17, is presenting an insanity defense, and faces a potential 50-year prison sentence if convicted of attempted first-degree murder.

Trial resumes Wednesday.

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