Stuffed inside a dark car trunk, bruised from being choked unconscious, frantic about her crying 5-year-old daughter, Shandelle Maycock pleaded for her life as soon as her attacker popped the trunk lid.
"Why are you doing this?" she cried Saturday to Harrel Braddy, a man who until then had shown kindness, but who soon would be an accused child murderer. "I know you're not this type of person. You don't need to do this!"
"You used me, " snarled Braddy, a married man, angry that Maycock wouldn't date him. "I know I'm going to go to jail for the rest of my life anyway, " he said, tightening his fingers around her neck until she passed out again.
Police have charged Braddy, a violent career criminal, with trying to kill Maycock on the spot. Looking at her Wednesday, five days later, it's plain that she's lucky to be alive.
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Her face is swollen. The whites of her eyes are bright red. Her right ear and neck are oozing and raw, the legacy of her desperate dive out of Braddy's speeding car onto the pavement while holding Quatisha in her arms.
"She was a beautiful little girl, " Maycock sobbed uncontrollably, grimacing at the pain of moving even an inch. "Everything I did was for her. I just wanted a better life for her. I loved her with all my heart, and I know she loved me."
The unsuccessful attempt to escape from Braddy's car left Quatisha with a broken skull, a damaged liver and other blunt trauma. Medical treatment might have helped, but Braddy had other plans, police say. Police have charged him with first-degree murder for abandoning Quatisha on a roadside off Alligator Alley near mile marker 34. Braddy said she was alive when he left her. Two fisherman found her pajama-clad, bruised body floating in the Everglades Monday.
Recovering slowly at her brother's Opa-locka home, Maycock spoke haltingly about her ordeal. She is taking pain medicine and antibiotics and cannot eat solid foods because it hurts to move her mouth. Everything else hurts, too, and her sadness fills the room with its overwhelming power.
She was quick to thank the two men who rescued her early Saturday as she staggered out of the bushes on U.S. 27 just across the Broward-Palm Beach county line. Braddy has admitted removing her from his car trunk and leaving her for dead near that site, police said, then driving off with Quatisha.
Maycock said some 10 or 20 cars passed by before the men stopped to help her. She was barefoot, weak and bleeding. She was blurry-eyed. Every time she tried to walk, she fell. She's not surprised motorists didn't stop.
"I was staggering, so people probably thought I was drunk, but I don't drink, " she said. Of her saviors, who said they were from New Jersey, she said: "If it wasn't for them, I don't know what would have happened."
Maycock, 22, a secretary, said she met Braddy while he was attending church with his wife. He made it clear he was interested in a romantic relationship, but she said she always told him no.
"I always told him, 'I don't see you and me, ' " she said. "But all of a sudden he started coming by, asking, 'Do you need anything done?' I said yes. He'd take me to the Laundromat, grocery store, pick Quatisha up from day care, things I needed done.
"I needed that help and support as a single parent, " she said.
Braddy, a bricklayer, appeared to be a nice person, she said. She had no idea of his violent history or his release from prison early after choking other people.
Friday night, Braddy drove Maycock to pick Quatisha up from her grandmother's house. They went back to Maycock's home in North Dade. The phone rang and Maycock told Braddy he needed to leave because a male friend was coming to visit. It wasn't true, but she wanted him to leave.
"He just jumped me, " she said. "He was choking me. I was fighting him. I fell to the floor. That's when I fell out. I woke up in his car. My daughter was in the front seat."
Quatisha, a kindergartner at Parkway Elementary who loved going to school, was crying, "Mommy, Mommy!" Maycock tried to soothe her, saying, "It's going to be OK."
Then, Maycock said, "I made plans to jump out. I grabbed her to the back seat. When he saw I was really going to jump, he started speeding."
Maycock said she prayed the whole time that Braddy would not kill Quatisha. He never said what he planned to do to them, and she couldn't even wrap her mind around the possibility.
"I didn't think he was the type of person to do this to my child, " she said, crying into a tissue. "You would never even think he was in jail for something like this. He always said how much he liked kids."
Said Maycock: "I loved my daughter. I did and I still do. This hurts so much, to lose a child. I just want justice for the both of us. It's going to be real hard. Every day I wake up and I think of her, because everything I did I did for her, for a better life."
A funeral fund has been set up for Quatisha Maycock. Contributions can be sent in her name to Peoples National Bank, Account No. 32311718406, 3275 NW 79th St., Miami, FL 33147.