A scar on the forehead is the only visible mark that remains on Danielle Jones’ body from a brutal beating that left her in a coma for 24 days.
Four months after the attack, the 23-year-old walks firmly. Despite her hesitant speech, her words are clear. The days in which uttering a single word required maximum effort are behind her.
At first glance, Jones seems completely recovered. However she still has a long road ahead. She must continue to receive physical therapy and speech therapy sessions at least once a week.
Another consequence of the attack is memory loss.
Jones told el Nuevo Herald that she does not remember the beating she received. Byron Mitchell, a 36-year-old personal trainer, a temporary roommate she found on Craigslist, is charged with the assault.
“I wouldn’t want to remember it either,” she said, clear in the knowledge that she still may.. Her memory has slowly started to improve and recuperate along with the rest of her body.
The only thing she remembers with clarity is the day she interviewed him to rent him a room in her downtown Miami apartment. He seemed like a good person, without a criminal record and with an impressive resume.
Her previous roommate had left without notice and she needed help paying the rent, so she turned to Craigslist in search of a new roommate. That’s how she met Mitchell, who was going to stay only for one month.
Her friends have told her that in the week prior to the attack — the first week he was in her home — she had already started feeling uncomfortable. He texted her frequently and she complained, telling him “I’m not your girlfriend.”
Jones was brutally attacked by Mitchell in her apartment on Feb. 14, police said. Mitchell hit her, stabbed her and choked her to the point of almost killing her before dialing 911 asking for help, the police report said. After the beating, Jones was in a coma for 24 days at the Ryder Trauma Center in Jackson Memorial Hospital.
“This has been a miracle,” said her mother, Aimee Nikolov. She recalls doctors predicted that her daughter would remain in a coma for several years or said that if she were to wake, she could be paralyzed or confined to a wheelchair.
The assault hasn’t changed Jones’ plans. She wants to continue chasing her dream of becoming a police officer or psychologist. However, her short-term goal is to recuperate enough to be able to exercise regularly; exercising is one of her favorite activities.
The experience has also left her with the desire to speak publicly at conferences and recount her experience, advising others to be more wary and take more precautions on social networks and Craiglist.
After his Feb. 15 arrest, Mitchell pleaded not guilty. The personal trainer says he acted in self defense when Jones tried to stab him with a knife.
Jones’ mom rejects his account.
“He doesn’t even have a scratch or small cut on him … He says he took a knife away from her and doesn’t even have one mark. He’s 6’2 … my daughter is 5’3 and weighs 115 pounds. She’s small,” Nikolov told el Nuevo two weeks after the attack.
Mitchell is still in jail without bail awaiting trial on a charge of premeditated attempted murder.
Kaitlin Cabot, Jones’ cousin, started a campaign to raise funds to help cover Jones’ medical costs. As of Friday, the family had raised $48,000 of the $50,000 goal.
Follow Johanna A. Alvarez on Twitter: @jalvarez8