In July 1992, Mrs. Brownlee was pregnant again. “He said, ‘I’m not having this baby,'” she said. “He hit me.”
Then she fled and returned only for a bag of clothes for the children, first carrying her sleeping 3-year-old to a nearby room. He appeared behind her and when she turned to him, he fired. She would learn months later what happened as she lay dying.
A cousin of Mr. Irvin arrived, unannounced, and walked into a place of bloodshed. “The house looked like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” a prosecutor later said. The cousin picked her up, carried her to his car and drove her to a hospital in Patchogue, where he left her in a wheelchair outside the door, where employees found her and took her inside.
Later that day, the police arrived at Mr. Irvin’s home. There was blood everywhere – no badge would make this go away. He was arrested and charged with attempted murder. The prosecutor in the case, Keri Herzog, was a young assistant district attorney in Suffolk County. She went to the hospital to check on the victim.
“She was covered in tubes,” recalls Mrs. Herzog. “We weren’t sure if she would make it.” She took the grand jury foreman in session to the hospital, along with a detective and a stenographer, to record a formal statement at the bedside in case she didn’t survive.
Mrs. Brownlee has no memories of this interrogation. Her first memory is 33 days after the shooting, when she awoke from a coma. She asked her doctor a question, afraid of the answer.
“He said, ‘The baby didn’t make it,'” she said. ‘It was a boy. He lived for two hours.’”
Her life as she had known it seemed over. “I was paralyzed from the waist down,” she said. A series of surgeries followed: “Gall bladder, colon and vaginal repair, bladder surgeries,” she said. “Partial hysterectomy. Hip.”