Wednesday, January 17, 2018
News Roundup

Spurred on by family, St. Petersburg woman shot in head struggles back

ST. PETERSBURG

Alyssa Dudley stares down a hospital corridor.

She sits in a wheelchair, gripping the arm rests with her purple-lacquered fingertips. A crash helmet protects her head. Her feet are firmly planted.

"You can do it, baby,'' her mother says. "Just get to the door.''

Alyssa is 21. Her task today: Learning again to walk.

• • •

On July 16, Alyssa's former boyfriend stormed into her St. Petersburg apartment and shot her three times, twice in the head. Carlos Crompton, 39, then drove to his family's house on 14th Avenue S. He shot at police officers. They fired back, killing him.

That night, surgeons at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg worked for hours to pull bullet and bone fragments from Alyssa's brain. She woke three days later.

"By that point, we didn't care how we got her back," said Alyssa's mom, Diana Dudley, who now lives in Dover. "We just wanted her back."

At first, Alyssa could only open her eyes, blink and look to the left. Gradually, she began recognizing her family. She started wiggling her left limbs, but struggled to move her right. After doctors removed the tube from her throat, she tried to talk.

"But nothing came out," Diana said. "Until one morning. I asked her how she was doing. I almost cried when she said, 'Good. Good.' "

Alyssa now speaks in short bursts: "yes" or "no" or "see you later." She doesn't seem to remember what happened. She hasn't asked about Crompton, who she had dated for three years.

For now, she eats only pureed foods. Her aunt brings containers of blended spaghetti and mashed potatoes. On Tuesday, her mom noticed chocolate on Alyssa's mouth. The 21-year-old giggled and pulled back her blanket.

"She was hiding two cookies in the hospital bed," Diana said. "Her roommate's visitor had slipped them to her. She thought it was the funniest thing in the world."

Alyssa started rehab at the hospital about two weeks ago, working with physical therapists and speech pathologists.

"She makes progress every day," her mother said. "Every single day."

• • •

Alyssa graduated from Dixie Hollins High School in 2010. She bought a 1996 Honda Accord and moved out of her parents' St. Petersburg house. She smoothed a cling-on quote over her new apartment's door: Go confidently.

Alyssa worked at an assisted living home. She cracked jokes with the elderly residents. She cried when rooms became vacant.

She embellished T-shirts for friends with neon acrylic paint and glitter. Diana suggested she sell them.

"Alyssa said, 'No, Mom. I have to know the person. It has to represent their personality.' That's the kind of girl she is. Caring and creative."

She met Carlos Crompton through friends. He was quiet, respectful and prayed before meals. Her parents worried about the age difference.

"But we knew she was mature, independent and very responsible," her mother said. "We knew she was sick of the games guys her age would play. We wanted to give her space."

Arguments started when Crompton, who was arrested years ago on drug charges and never found steady work, moved in with Alyssa.

"She paid the rent, the bills," Diana said. "He'd contribute here and there, but she was always pulling the weight."

Days before the shooting, Alyssa broke up with Crompton and took back his apartment keys. She asked her mom to change her cellphone number.

On July 16, she was at home with a friend and that woman's 14-year-old daughter.

Around 8:30 p.m., Diana's cellphone started ringing.

"It was the 14-year-old, crying so hard I couldn't understand her at first. She said, 'Alyssa's on the ground. Carlos shot her.' "

• • •

Alyssa's mom and dad, Eddie, left work to stay with her full time. They read her face, sense her moods. They hold her hand, paint her nails, play Usher and Keyshia Cole — her favorite singers. The family's only income now is $350 a week in paid leave from Diana's employer. She dreads the hospital bills. She doesn't know how they'll cover Alyssa's future care.

"We're going to find a way," Diana said. "We have to be here. We want to give her a chance to live the best life possible."

• • •

It's too soon to know how fully Alyssa will recover.

Dr. Steven Scott, a trauma expert at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa, said every brain injury — and every patient's response to treatment — is different.

"Victims of brain trauma do much better when they're surrounded by the love of family," he said. "I believe compassion and caring will do more than what we can do with medicine."

• • •

Alyssa rises from the wheelchair. She grabs the hallway's plastic railing.

"Okay, honey," says a physical therapist, hovering nearby. "Take your time."

She puts weight on her right leg — the one she couldn't move for weeks. She steadies herself. Takes a step forward. Then another, faster. Another.

"Oh my God," her mother says, tearing up. "Alyssa!"

She reaches the door, her finish line.

"Do you want to do that again?"

Alyssa nods yes.

     
       
Comments
McDonald’s manager gets ovation at Seminole Heights investigation ceremony

McDonald’s manager gets ovation at Seminole Heights investigation ceremony

TAMPA — Delanda Walker, the McDonald’s employee who gave police the tip that led to an arrest in the Seminole Heights slayings, received a standing ovation Wednesday during a ceremony thanking citizens who helped in the investigation.Mayor Bob Buckho...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
Casino company set to sail again Thursday after deadly boat fire

Casino company set to sail again Thursday after deadly boat fire

PORT RICHEY — Tropical Breeze Casino Cruz said it plans to reopen on Thursday and resume shuttling passengers back out to its gambling vessel in the Gulf of Mexico three days after a boat fire forced 50 passengers and crew to abandon ship.The 72-foot...
Updated: 24 minutes ago
Snow, ice and record cold grip the South; at least 8 dead

Snow, ice and record cold grip the South; at least 8 dead

ATLANTA — A layer of snow and ice and a record-breaking blast of cold closed runways, highways, schools and government offices across the South and sent cars sliding off roads Wednesday in a swath of the country ill-equipped to deal with wintry weath...
Updated: 29 minutes ago
Water Street Tampa developers seek artist and design for $600,000 outdoor art near USF med school

Water Street Tampa developers seek artist and design for $600,000 outdoor art near USF med school

TAMPA — Water Street Tampa announced Wednesday it is seeking artists and proposals for a big piece of outdoor art for the plaza between one of the $3 billion project’s office buildings and the new building for the University of South Florida Morsani ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Dow Jones closes above 26,000 for first time

Dow Jones closes above 26,000 for first time

The latest on developments in financial markets (All times local):4 p.m.Stocks are closing higher on Wall Street, sending the Dow Jones industrial average to its first close above 26,000 points.The Dow had traded above that level on Tuesday but wound...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Pasco opens cold shelters, joining Pinellas, Hillsborough and Hernando

Pasco opens cold shelters, joining Pinellas, Hillsborough and Hernando

Temperatures are set to drop Wednesday and keep dropping, Tampa Bay. It’s time to take tonight’s lows seriously.That’s why cold shelters are opening in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties.PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Goodbye 70s. Hello freeze w...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Two Tampa Bay area students among those facing hazing charges in FSU death

Two Tampa Bay area students among those facing hazing charges in FSU death

TALLAHASSEE — Two students from the Tampa Bay area, sons of an assistant chief for the Tampa Police Department and a New York Yankees vice president, have been charged in the hazing death of a Florida State University fraternity pledge.Christopher M....
Updated: 1 hour ago

John McCain: Mr. President, stop attacking the press

After leaving office, President Ronald Reagan created the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award to recognize individuals who have fought to spread liberty worldwide. Nancy Reagan continued the tradition after her husband’s death, and in 2008 she bestowed the h...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Pasco goats somehow make yoga less weird

Pasco goats somehow make yoga less weird

DADE CITY — More than 36 million Americans practice yoga, but many people still feel intimidated by the ancient method of controlling the body and mind through physical and mental practices.Perhaps it is the daunting terms or confusing poses that cau...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Hernando schools superintendent seeks protection from neighbor she accuses of harassment

Hernando schools superintendent seeks protection from neighbor she accuses of harassment

SPRING HILL — Hernando County schools Superintendent Lori Romano will appear in court this month after filing for a restraining order against her neighbor, who she said has stalked and harassed her since last summer.In a court filing, Romano brings a...
Updated: 2 hours ago