WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The victim of a domestic violence assault is starting to show signs of recovery after being severely beaten Friday night. Hannah Connaway opened her eyes Wednesday and spoke to friends and family.
Michael Hutton is accused of creating serious internal damage to Connaway's brain. Connaway's Grandfather, Jerry Strickland, said she needed brain surgery after the assault.
Connaway was in critical condition, but has since been upgraded to fair as of Wednesday.
"Hannah opened her eyes today and was hoarsely talking to Sunny and I," Claudene Williams, friend of Connaway and witness of the assault said. She was "telling us she loves and that she is happy to see us. She seems a bit confused but is flashing us bright smiles. The left side of her body is still not moving like the doctors would like, but it will get there hopefully."
Connaway's friends and family held a candlelight service Monday night to show her family they are loved and supported by all their friends in this community during this difficult time.
Sunny Platt, one of Connaway's friends, said Connaway had committed to going to the University of Hawaii next year to further her education.
Michael Hutton, 18, has been charged with attempted first degree murder after being accused of severely beating his girlfriend Friday night. Hutton was in court Tuesday and according to District Attorney Ben David, the teen is accused of beating 17-year-old Hannah Connaway in her head and neck.
According to the assistant district attorney, the incident happened at Hutton's parent's house while they were out of town. The ADA said Connaway and Hutton got into a fight over some texts. Connaway's friend, Claudene Williams, said she was with the couple at the time of the altercation. She said Hutton was angry because of some tangled fishing lines.
"He was angry because he couldn't untangle fishing lines," explained Williams. "He was blaming her (Hannah) for some things like having snarky remarks to things he was saying, and then it just escalated and kept on going."
The fight reportedly took place inside and outside of the house before ending in the front yard. Williams said Hutton had beaten, strangled, and dragged Connaway across the yard.
"I keep on hearing her screaming and I keep on hearing all the sounds and it's just awful. I ran around the front door. I tried to get in. All the doors were locked. It was just awful," Williams said.
When emergency responders arrived on scene they found Connaway unconscious in the front yard. She was immediately taken to New Hanover Regional Medical Center for emergency brain surgery, and Hutton was taken into custody.
Hutton was originally arrested Saturday night for assault to inflict serious injury and assault on a female charges, but bonded out Monday.
At his court case Tuesday, Hutton was charged with attempted murder and is facing life without parole. He was taken back into custody immediately following the hearing.
He is also facing close to 30 years for felony assault by strangulation and first degree kidnapping, felony assault to inflict serious injury, misdemeanor assault on a female, and a misdemeanor drug charge.
The Assistant District Attorney requested a $2 million bond be set for Hutton, but the judge set it at $1 million. The judge presiding over the hearing said if Hutton does post bond he must go under a pre-trial release program which would require him to wear an ankle bracelet and be confined to his home.
Hutton's attorney, Howard Hodges, said his client has no history of bad moral character, but has had a history of seizures. Hodges said alcohol combined with Hutton's seizure history may have triggered the event.
Claudene Williams appeared notably appalled by the defense's reasoning.
"The seizures had nothing to do with it. We think he might have had other drug substances, that he might have consumed other things," explained Williams.
If Hutton posts bond and returns home, he is authorized to receive whatever medical treatment he normally gets, and he is not allowed near Hannah and her family. Hutton's attorney said he was a Laney graduate and was studying business administration at Cape Fear Community College.
Hodges said the Hutton family would not be making a statement to the media.
Hutton is still in the New Hanover County Jail.
Montgomery Register was one onlooker in the courtroom Tuesday. Register said she used to date Michael Hutton.
"There's a lot that went on in the five and a half years that we did date," said Register.
She would not say whether or not she had been assaulted by Hutton in the time she dated him.
"I'm not going to put that out there, but people are going to believe what they want to believe and people that know me, know the things that I've been put through," said Register.
She did state that her relationship with Hutton wasn't always great.
"He's not a good guy. I've forgiven him. I've forgiven him. Like I said, I'm a Christian 100 percent. I have no grudge against him or his family, but I feel for the people he put after me after I left, after I walked away."
Cynthia Strickland describes her granddaughter, Hannah Connaway, as a brilliant, beautiful, and caring young girl who loves people. She says Hannah was aware of Hutton's mental instabilities.
"Hannah thought she could save him," Strickland said. "She thought she could help him."
Strickland says her granddaughter had been dating Hutton for about two months. While she never met him, she says she is praying for his family, too.
"This is emotional for both families," Strickland says.
Since Hannah was rushed into emergency surgery over the weekend, Strickland says the hospital has been flooded with friends holding a constant vigil for the 17-year-old's recovery.
Strickland, who many know as a prominent real estate broker in the Wilmington area remains faithful that her granddaughter will pull through. She admits, though, doctors are hesitant to speak on her prognosis since she suffered a serious brain injury.
"She was leaving in August to attend college in Hawaii and study mechanical engineering," Strickland said. "I'm still hoping she will be able to go."
Strickland is also hopeful that something good will come from all of this---especially preventing it from happening to someone else.
"I saw a bunch of guys at the hospital last night and I wanted to say to them if you know a friend who is not kind to a female, you should let somebody know," Strickland said. "If we had heard from one of those girls that had already had a bad experience with him (Hutton), this could have been avoided."