DURHAM, NC (WNCN) - More than 20 years after enduring severe abuse, David Stuart, a young man who lived in the Triangle, died.
David Stuart survived the abuse when he was just a year old, and grew up in the Triangle with his adoptive parents.
Beth Schmitt remembers the son her family adopted for his smile and his love of baseball.
"His favorite thing was to play Miracle League, play baseball and to be with other people and be with friends and family," she said.
David's room at his Durham home is full of trophies and ball caps, mementos of accomplishments a lot of people never expected. In 1997, when David was 14 months old and living in Brunswick County, prosecutors say his biological mother, Robyn Noffsinger and her boyfriend David Tripp Jr., abused him so badly it caused permanent injuries including severe brain damage.
"It was a tremendous amount of head trauma," said Jon David, Brunswick County's District Attorney. "His arm was pulled in such a way that he had a spiral fracture of his arm. He was dipped in hot liquids which produced a bad burn," he continued. Noffsinger and Tripp were convicted of child abuse and prosecutors say they both spent about 10 years in jail.
When David was three he was adopted and moved to the Triangle. Schmitt says David couldn't, walk, talk, or eat on his own, and often had trouble breathing, but he immediately became part of the family even though his prognosis was grim.
"At the time the doctors thought he would live to be about six maybe, just because of the brain damage and the extent of that, so every year we just felt very lucky," said Schmitt.
In January he celebrated his 22nd birthday. Sadly, it was his last. Prosecutors say David's death, in March, resulted from the injuries he suffered as a baby and a grand jury indicted Noffsinger and Tripp for murder.
"I tried not to have a lot of anger over the years because I felt like that was just wasted energy," said Schmitt. "My energy just went in to taking care of him and focusing on what he could do focusing on what he did do."
She says his big smile inspired just about everyone he met.
"He touched people and just reminded people everybody's very lucky. We're all lucky to be here."
She says she's so thankful for the 18 years David spent with her family.
"I was lucky more than anything. Everyone says he was lucky to have us, but we were so lucky to have him. I don't know what else I would've done with my life other than have him."