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Christmas Day miracle: Brain-dead beating victim moves

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Just days after doctors declared her brain dead, beating victim Denisse Escareno wiggled her fingers and toes on Christmas Day.

By Lisa King

Dennisse Escareno’s family members had said they were praying for a Christmas miracle to prove doctors were wrong about her being brain dead.

And right on schedule, on Christmas Day, they got that miracle.

Escareno, 24, who had been viciously beaten and left by the side of the road, moved her fingers and toes, her roommate Melody Riddle said Tuesday.

“We went up to see her on Christmas Day, and Krissi took the kids,” she said.

Krissi Tipton, Escareno’s aunt, had told The Sentinel-News Thursday that she was going to take her children to University of Louisville Hospital “to say goodbye,” but instead she said she got the surprise of her life.

Escareno’s mother, Norma Escareno, who has hardly left her daughter’s side since arriving from California, was in the room, and when the family came in, she told them that her daughter had just wiggled her toes.

“She said, maybe she will do it again,” Riddle said. “She said, ‘Come on, Denisse, show us that you are still with us.’”

Then when Escareno wiggled them again, Riddle said everybody in the room just went hysterical with joy.

“My little boy just started hugging her and my daughter literally just hit the floor,” Tipton said.

Riddle said the awe of the situation sent a chill down her spine.

“The doctors had told us that they didn’t think she was going to recover; she was just not going to pull through this,” she said. “But when she wiggled her toes, we were just all in tears.

“We just couldn’t believe it. We have just been calling everybody and telling them how God has answered our prayers.”

Riddle said doctors evaluated Escareno’s responses and then said more testing is needed to understand her condition more clearly but that they are being cautiously optimistic.

 “The doctors have said they think she can hear us,” Riddle said.

Escareno has lain in a coma at UofL since Nov. 5, when she was found on Mount Eden Road about 2 miles south of Interstate 64, stabbed, severely beaten and barely alive.

An account was set up at Citizens Union Bank to help with the expenses for her treatment.

Mark Bruner, 38, of Taylorsville was arrested 10 days later and charged with assaulting Escareno. He 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, police said.

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

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

Last week, when the family shared the tragic diagnosis with The Sentinel-News, they also shared their hope that a miracle could happen for Denisse.

Escareno’s employer, Bonnie Burgin, manager of the Community Christian Daycare on Mount Eden Road, echoed that hope.

““I believe in miracles, and maybe that’s what we all need to do right now – just pray, and believe,” she had said.

What did she have to say when she heard the news that there was still hope for Escareno?

“It was wonderful news,” she said. “A miracle was what we prayed for. Now we just have to wait and see how much improvement she is going to make. I’m sure she’s got a long, hard road in front of her.”

Riddle said that even though the doctors have still not been able to tell them anything yet about what to expect, the family continues to cling to the hope that Escareno could make a full recover.

“All we know is that she is now responding, and we just want to ask every one to continue to pray for her,” she said.