Day care shooting victim has a "Will to Survive"
Channel 13 has the exclusive story that was the subject of a May 15th court hearing to keep a crime victim silent.
You may have wondered, what happened to the mother who was shot multiple times outside of a day care earlier this year?
Many thought Shirley Justice had died. Now, she's talking. And a judge denied a gag order that could have silenced her.
Eyewitness News Anchor Andrea Morehead has been following Justice's journey from the beginning.
Shirley Justice lives the life of anguish, exhaustion and the struggle of resiliency.
"I never know what kind of day I'm gonna have. It just depends on how I wake up," she said.
Doctors say she should have died.
"When you came to my file, I was like, 'Oh my God, she's alive'," said her rehabilitation coach.
On this first day of rehabilitation, Shirley Justice is moving towards another milestone - taking her first steps up stairs.
"When I say, 'Heel toe, heel' and then you toe off this way. The good leg goes to heaven, the bad leg goes to hell," says the rehabilitation coach.
Shirley was there on February 18.
"I just heard, 'pop, pop, pop, pop, pop'," says witness Reggie Dial.
Dozens of shots rang out from two guns fired by one man. Police say her ex-husband shot her.
"I remember putting my hand up and saying 'Don't Chris! Please stop!' and, um, I remember thinking to myself, you know, 'I'll stop the custody battle just please don't kill me'," Justice said.
Custody exchanged hands several times. Shirley believes this triggered the unimaginable after she dropped off her two girls at the day care.
"I walked outside and I went to get into my car and I started hearing gunshots. And I saw him and I was, like, 'Oh my God, this cannot be happening.' I don't know why I didn't really feel all of those bullets. I felt a few of them. But I just...I know I wouldn't go down. I remember letting myself fall to the ground because I felt like if I fall down, he'll think I'm dead and he'll stop shooting," said Shirley, who was only thinking about her daughter.
"They were in the front of the building. How much of that they saw or heard, I'll never know," she said. "I don't know how much therapy they're gonna need for that, but it just hurts me to know that they saw me like that."
Trauma surgeons at IU Health Methodist Hospital were ready.
"Bringing someone back from the dead is probably an inept description," says Methodist Trauma Surgeon Timothy Pohlman.
Bullets hit every major artery. Shirley was shot 14 times.
"One bullet entered her chest, went through the bottom part of her heart," Pohlman said.
"I need to fight so that people know that domestic violence is real and this is what can happen or worse if it goes ignored," Shirley said.
Thirty-six hours after the shooting, Christopher Justice surrendered to Lexington, Kentucky police.
His former mother-in-law had tough words during a press conference.
"You can be out there living your life while my daughter lays there in bed trying to recover from her wounds," said Shirley's mother, Sheila Hart.
Shirley was in a coma then. She heard the story of a mother's love and resolve for the first time from her hospital bed after waking up.
"The last thing I said was, 'You're not gonna win, Chris. She's gonna win.' And that's just gonna be the theme. That's gonna be the theme. You're gonna win," said Shirley's mother. "And you've got all of us right behind you to do it."
And Shirley did it.
Her mother documented the monumental milestone that doctors predicted was never going to happen - walking. Home video shows Shirley walking and her mother saying, "30 days to the day and look at me. Now it's time for a jogging outfit, right?"
But the miracles are sometimes overshadowed by the reality of domestic violence.
"There has got to be harder punishment for people like my ex-husband. He just skated by. Every time he violated a protection order, every time he hurt me, it's like he went unpunished for so long that it took for him to literally try to take my life," Shirley said.
That constant fear, even under tight security and reassurances from family and friends will never go away. There are still restless night now at home where she focuses on complete healing with the help from friends Tye and Josh.
"I was calling them 'T & J - a Touch of Jesus'," Shirley said.
And that's where she draws her strength.
"Up with the good. You good," says Shirley's rehabilitation coach.
The fight to have a peaceful future takes a heavy breath and painful step at a time as Shirley makes her way up the stairs.
"Good job girl," said the coach.
It's an exercise of mental endurance that's often interrupted by the physical pain of recovery. She plans to turn the corner slowly for now.
"One more. Good job," says the rehabilitation coach.
Her next step is to advocate for others.
"Proud of you," says the coach.
"God had a greater purpose for me and I'm here," Shirley said.
Shirley Justice continues to slowly heal and doctors expect 100 percent recovery. As for the alleged suspect, a judge reduced Christopher Justice's bond from $100,000 to $25,000.
He's still in jail. We've learned his defense attorney plans to use an insanity defense and is currently seeking a change of venue when the trial begins.
If you would like to help with Shirley’s medical costs, go to http://www.gofundme.com/shirleyandthegirls
Channel 13 has been Shattering the Silence for over a decade. If you or someone you know is being abused, click on Shattering the Silence for a list of resources.