Slowly, so very slowly, Kim Donaldson awkwardly points out the letters on her homemade alphabet board.

"I.d.o.n.t.k.n.o.w.w.h.y.I. c.a.n.t.g.o.t.o.c.o.u.r.t."
Her mother stands over her, shoving on her reading glasses to follow the clumsy hand movements of her 22-year-old daughter. "This time you will, dear, this time you will."

It's the kind of promise a mother will make, even knowing it might never happen. But June Sianez makes her daughter lots of promises these days. She promises to always have a home for Kim when she's not in a rehabilitation center. She promises to raise Kim's three-year-old darling of a daughter. She promises to fight the insurance company to cover the astronomical medical bills. But most of all, she promises she'll never stop helping Kim get some measure of justice.

And Kim knows exactly what justice she wants. It's one of the few things she knows for sure. She doesn't know if she'll ever walk on her own again. She doesn't know if she'll ever feed herself without help again. She doesn't know if she'll ever be able to lift her daughter again.

Her gnarled hand points out one letter at a time on the cardboard sheet with oversize letters of the alphabet: "I.w.a.n.t.h.i.m.i.n.j.a.i.l."

In a weak moment--and June Sianez doesn't allow herself many of those, hasn't for two years--this mother who watches over her brain-damaged daughter admits all this would be far easier to take if he had just paid for destroying her beautiful girl.

"He got up in court and said he loved Kim and would never hurt her," Mrs. Sianez says. From the nearby couch, Kim makes grunting noises that force everyone's attention. As painful as it is to watch, it would be insulting to look away as she crooks her head and concentrates on forcing out the words she thinks are so important the alphabet board won't do. She wants to say this out loud.

Few understand the painful sounds that pass for speech from Kim Donaldson these days. It takes so terribly long for her to will her vocal chords to make sounds. But when she finally spits these words out, there's enough strength behind them that even a visitor gets it.

"THAT LIAR." DAVID CARRIZOZA IS SOMEWHERE in the army these days. For all Kim's attorneys know, he could be in Saudi Arabia. They still haven't been able to find him, but they've got his army post office number now and that means it will only be a matter of time before they track him down. When they do, they'll finally serve the legal papers they filed in April in the case of Kim Lorraine Donaldson v. David A. Carrizoza. It's a civil case that seeks not less than $3 million for her "special and general damages" and not less than $3 million in punitive damages.

The suit charges that on July 17, 1988, David Carrizoza--live-in boyfriend to Kim and father of her child--"intentionally and with malice assaulted and beat the plaintiff until she was senseless. As a direct result of the assault and beating, the plaintiff was rendered comatose and suffered serious and extensive injuries, including serious brain injuries which resulted in her almost total disability.

"As a further direct result . . . the plaintiff has incurred substantial medical expenses and will continue to incur substantial medical expenses for the balance of her life.

"As a further direct result, the plaintiff has incurred a substantial loss of income and will continue to lose income for the foreseeable future.

"As a further result, the plaintiff has incurred substantial pain, suffering, emotional upset and other intangible losses and will continue to incur those . . . for the foreseeable future."

Attorney Charles Rausch knows the first question everyone will ask is the obvious: What the hell is this issue doing in a civil case? Where's the county attorney to file criminal charges against this guy? And then he'll tell you the pitiful story and will explain that this is the only avenue left for Kim.

David Carrizoza was arrested.
He was charged with aggravated assault and faced the possibility of five to fifteen years in prison.

He went to trial.
In March 1989, David Carrizoza was found innocent.
A juror later told the press, "We all felt that, yes, he was the one who actually beat her up. But due to--I have to say--the incompetence of the police, getting the evidence and everything, we couldn't pin him down."

Avondale police officers had taken the stand to recount how David claimed Kim arrived at their trailer door that night after a dance, beaten to a pulp. He told them he'd carried her to the bedroom and then gone for help. They testified they saw scratches and blood on Carrizoza and immediately concluded he was lying. But they never tape-recorded his statements and never photographed his scratches. Nor did they take photos of the entrance to the trailer, which surely would have been covered in blood if Kim had entered in a condition so horrible she was near death.

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Jana Bommersbach