Rochester, N.Y. - She was repeatedly slashed in a robbery attempt then left for dead.
Instead Schulunda Imes left police a clue that helped them link her attacker to a brutal crime spree.
Five months later, he is preparing for trial while she lives with the physical and emotional scars of what happened. “He thought he had finished me off, but I’m a fighter,” says Imes.
Most nights as she falls asleep – she sees the face of her attacker- a man she tried to help.
On November 14 she was working with Joseph Myles, helping him to find a place to live at her office on Chestnut Street. He asked for a drink of water, and when she turned to hand it to him he lunged at her with a box cutter.
“He cut me across my eyes the first time to blind me,” she says while making a slashing motion just below her eyebrows. Then she described the next five slashes to her neck and ear.
“I’m fighting and we’re going at it and he’s just cutting and cutting,” she says.
Blinded by her own blood and holding a gushing wound at her throat she picked up her cell phone, called 911, and then placed a call she thought might be her last. “I remember calling my family and telling them ‘I’m dying, I’m dying,” she says.
But the ambulance driver – a man she knows only as Joe- would not let her give up. “I told him to tell my kids I loved them, but he said he wouldn’t do it. That kept me fighting.”
Five months later Imes has no vision in her right eye and cannot hear in that ear. Doctors cannot tell her whether either will be restored. The scars above her eye and at her neck are visible.
Another result of her injury is not.
Under her skin doctors have embedded a small wire linked to a battery at the small of her back. They provide a pulse used to fight the numbness in her face and the daily migraine headaches.
She points to the right side of her face. “Certain places I can feel and certain places I don’t want anyone to touch. It makes me jump in pain,” she says.
After all she’s been through, Imes is ready to testify against her attacker yet she may never get that chance. Myles is also accused of stabbing a mother and killing her son in what police allege was the beginning of the crime spree that lead to Imes’ own attack.
Prosecutors have offered a plea bargain, 40 years to life to encompass all three cases. That’s less than the 75 years to life he would get if convicted of every charge and sentenced to the maximum.
“We have met with the victims and taken into account their rights but ultimately we have a job to do and must do the best thing for the case,” says Tim Prosperi , a prosecutor with the Monroe County District Attorney’s office.
Yet Imes says a trial would help her make sense of what happened. And maybe answer the other thing that keeps her up at night.
The question of why.
“I was trying to help him and for my help he tried to take my life,” she says.