"She's a pretty amazing person," Justin Graham said of his sister-in-law, Colleen Scarola.
Graham was at his Pittsburgh home with his wife, Scarola's sister, and her parents over a week ago when they got a call that forever changed their lives.
"It was surreal," Graham said.
The news was unimaginable. Police say Colleen's husband, James Scarola, 40, hit her in the head with an aluminum baseball bat in their Burlington home.
"We were just trying to think straight and figure out what we could do to help immediately," Graham said.
The family raced to Burlington. They have sat, talked and prayed by Colleen's hospital bed, as she remains in critical condition with a traumatic brain injury at Fletcher Allen Health Care
The couple has two children, aged 5 and 7. Police say the night of the attack James Scarola may have drugged the children; they are awaiting lab results.
Reporter Gina Bullard: How are the kids doing?
Justin Graham: They're good, as well as can be expected. They have a great support system.
Gina Bullard: Do they understand what's going on?
Justin Graham: As much as they can. We've explained in general terms what's happened, certainly they have the details we know they're going to hear and that's an incredibly difficult conversation to have.
"You couldn't ask for a better person. She's so sociable, gets along with everybody," Colleen Myers said.
Colleen and Leo Myers live next door to the Scarolas. They often spent time with Colleen Scarola and her kids. They did not know James as well. They say the horror novelist was often at home and liked to drink.
Gina Bullard: Did you ever hear them fighting or see the police here?
Colleen Myers: No, we never even seen them arguing.
Colleen Scarola had filed for divorce in July, but the couple was still living together. And Graham says that worried the family.
"We all had concerns about that, but beyond that I don't think anybody expected something like this to transpire," Graham said.
An online fund was started by Colleen's family to pay for medical, legal and other expenses. The fund has raised over $55,000 already. The family is now hoping to reach $100,000. People like Colleen's neighbors the Myers have donated.
"I think it's a testament to the strength of her friends and family and the community here," Graham said.
Everyone who knows Colleen Scarola says she's strong and a fighter. Proof of that Wednesday, when Colleen for the first time responded to a command and squeezed her brother-in-law's hand.
"It was a great moment," Graham said. "And she started to cry and, you know, you could see she's there."
Colleen's family remains optimistic. They said she has an infectious smile and really lights up a room and they are anxiously looking forward to having that back.
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