THE HIGH PRICE OF HEROISM

Tipped to the Lone Star warrant by Subway's owner, Morlacci figured Moises would be extradited to Texas and that would be the neat, tidy end of his claim for medical benefits.

But Moises did not disappear. His family in Texas cleared up his legal problems in Houston and he continued to see doctors in Phoenix.

Arizona ran Moises in front of its own shrinks who pronounced him as fit as a fiddle and cleared him to go back to work. The state then cut off his weekly workers' comp check, computed at the whopping sum of two-thirds of the $5 an hour he made at Subway.

All of this mess now sits in front of an administrative law judge who will rule on Moises' mental health and work status. The state will put its head doctors on the witness stand and Moises will call his.

But I don't need to listen to a tennis match between mental-health experts. I've heard all I need to hear from Lorraine Terry.

Although Moises is engaged to her, Lorraine told me she no longer recognizes her fianc‚. The young boy she met on a church mission to Mexico, the gentleman who conducted himself like a big brother, is gone. She says the real Moises never came back from the robbery. In his place is a moody brute who works out his rage by beating her. She doesn't know how much more she can take.

"He was never violent before. He was calm, laid-back. We're both raised in religious homes. His parents did not fight. I saw them talk their problems out. That's how Moises was. He'd tell you, 'I don't like when you did that.'

"Now he's closed off, bottled up. He doesn't talk about his feelings. He really scared me last Christmas. He used to be so outgoing. Now we go to a mall, if someone brushes against him, he's all, 'What's that? Are they following me?'

"The worst part is the violence. It happens every week. Earlier this month, he didn't just hit me; he beat me. Months' worth of anger poured out. I'd almost rather he just slap me and get it over with rather than hold it in to the point that it explodes.

"Even when his mom came out, she was so confused by the change in his personality. He hit me in front of her. She just said, 'I didn't raise him to do that.'

"I don't want my mom to see him, or me. I don't want her to see this.
"I love Moises. But there's a person there now that I don't know and I don't think I love that person."

Earlier this month, I called Moises and Lorraine to see how they were doing. They couldn't talk for very long because they were selling their washer and dryer to have some cash for the holidays, and a buyer was at the door. They weren't sure, but they might even have to move back with their folks in Texas.

Moises was also trying to prepare for the workers' comp hearing scheduled for the next day.

The hearing was a disaster for Moises.
Judge Russell G. Sheley lectured Moises at length, insisting that Moises stop addressing him as "Sir." This hectoring by the judge went on long enough that it moved beyond the eccentric and into the realm of the bizarre. At one point, Moises was even chastised for referring to the judge as "Your honor." The judge warned Moises that he must stop referring to Morlacci as "Ma'am" because "`Ma'am' is an abbreviation for madam and that's not a very nice term."

The judge also found time to wax sarcastic when Moises did not know his zip code.

During one remarkable exchange, the judge as much as called Moises a malingerer. His honor sneered at the young man, who had turned to look at the judge while answering a question, "Don't turn towards me. You'll end up with a neck injury."

Moises made the mistake of representing himself instead of using an attorney. Clearly rattled, his questions made little sense, his own answers were loopy and his case evaporated before it was ever mounted.

Moises' instability boiled over as he was cross-examined by Subway's attorney.

Moises turned to the judge and said two of Subway's witnesses were making faces at him and that he wasn't going to take it anymore.

What are you going to do about it? taunted the judge.
And with that, Moises collapsed on the witness stand and began sobbing in long, powerful gasps. His fianc‚e rushed to his side and the judge walked briskly out of the hearing room for a short recess.

The legal proceedings concluded before medical witnesses could be called, so there will be another hearing. For all the good it will do Moises.

He'd better adjust to the idea that the medical bills are going to be his debt. And he can kiss the tiny stipend he got from workers' comp goodbye.

But I was still curious about one thing.
In fact, the witnesses had been giggling and making faces at the hapless Moises as Subway's lawyer took him apart like a boy pulling the wings off an insect. One of those laughing hardest was Sherry Yarbrough, the very woman whose life Moises Jaramillo was so concerned about saving.

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