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Beating victim is awake, responsive but can't speak

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Bruner indicted on first-degree assault charges

By Lisa King

An assault victim who miraculously showed signs of beginning to wake up on Christmas Day after nearly two months in a coma has continued to show some slight progress, her family says.

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“She is awake now, that is, she watches us with her eyes and responds to commands, like when we ask her to wiggle her toes,” said Krissi Tipton, the victim’s aunt.

Doctors at the University of Louisville, where Denisse Escareno had lain in a coma since being viciously beaten Nov. 5, had told the family just before Christmas that they feared she was brain dead.

But on Christmas Day the miracle they had been prayed for happened – Escareno moved her toes.

Their hopes flared dramatically, and since then, Escareno, 24, has opened her eyes but little more progress has occurred, Tipton said.

“She moves her lips like she wants to say something, but nothing comes out,” she said.

Escareno was found by passersby on Mount Eden Road about 2 miles south of Interstate 64, stabbed, severely beaten and barely alive.

Mark Bruner, 38, of Taylorsville, who was arrested 10 days later and charged with the beating, has been indicted by a Shelby County Grand Jury.

The grand jury returned an indictment of first-degree assault and tampering with physical evidence against Bruner on Wednesday.

Bruner has pleaded not guilty to the charge of first-degree assault, a Class B felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

The indictment stated  the charge of tampering with physical evidence was added by the grand jury because Bruner, “destroyed, mutilated, concealed, removed or altered” physical evidence in the case, but it did not specify what that evidence was.

Tampering with physical evidence is also a felony, punishable by 1 to 5 years in prison.

Police say Bruner and Escareno did not know each other, and he apparently saw her walking, picked her up and gave her a ride to a phone store.

Meanwhile, Escareno remains hospitalized at UofL.

Tipton said a fund at Citizens Union Bank, which was established to help with her medical expenses, is still in effect.

Shelby County Sheriff’s Det. Eric Hettinger said investigators and experts are continuing to review forensic evidence in the case.

Tipton said that plans that Escareno’s mother had to take her to California to care for her in comatose state have changed.

“That was the plan before, because the doctors didn’t think moving her would make any difference, but since she’s woken up, they want to keep her here for while,” Tipton said Wednesday.