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Hospitalized mother loses home, fears for regaining custody of children

News Staff Reporter
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Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News
As medical bills mount, Susan Moore remains in the Erie County Medical Center with a severe infection after suffering paralyzing injuries.


Susan Moore says she cannot believe that since last March, when she lost two of her three children to foster care and then was paralyzed after being run over by her drug-
addled boyfriend, her fortunes have sunk even lower.

Last month, a severe infection landed her back in Erie County Medical Center, where her damaged spinal cord had been treated. Antibiotics have failed to stop the toxic invasion, and she remains hospitalized.

Last week, Moore was evicted in absentia from her Grand Island home, as a result of foreclosure proceedings started when she fell behind on mortgage payments while trying to pay off medical bills totaling at least $150,000. Erie County sheriff's deputies carted off the family's belongings in a rental truck. Her 16-year-old son and his dog are staying with a friend's family for now.

Moore, 39, wonders how she will pick up the pieces when she leaves the medical center in her wheelchair, which may not be anytime soon.

"It's a never-ending nightmare," she said from her hospital bed. "I'm homeless, and the fact I'm hooked up to these machines and can't get to my child, . . . it's the worst feeling I've had in my life."

Moore's predicament stems from a troubled relationship with Felix Medina, 28, the man charged with running over her in her driveway last March 28.

Ten days earlier, Medina had violated a court order to stay away from Moore's children, prompting authorities to place the two youngest - a 12-year-old boy and 6-year-old girl - in a foster home.

Medina, who has been jailed since shortly after being accused of running over Moore, is charged with assault with intent to cause serious injury with a weapon, as well as assault with the risk of death. His trial is set for May.

He also is accused of violating two protection orders that barred him from being around the children.

Moore fell for Medina after a chance meeting in Buffalo about five years ago. The relationship, she said, was happy until he began using cocaine and Ecstasy in 2003. That August, he was arrested on charges of striking the 16-year-old and another teenager when they came to Moore's aid during a domestic dispute. She obtained court orders barring Medina from contact with any of the children.

Medina's violent behavior escalated, according to police reports, after he was shot several times on a Buffalo street corner in May 2004.

Over the next year, police frequently were called to Moore's Grand Island home. In January 2005, Medina was charged with harassing the family after Moore had bailed him out of jail in an unrelated case.

The following month, Medina was arrested on charges of threatening Moore in front of her children. Hours after he was released on $500 bail, Erie County sheriff's deputies deputies re-arrested Medina after finding him hiding in her chimney. He was charged with criminal trespass, resisting arrest and two more counts of child endangerment, and jailed without bail.

Last March 9, Medina was arrested and jailed yet again for violating the protection order and possessing drugs in the company of Moore's 16-year-old son and the other teenager he struck in August 2003.

His worsening addiction rendered Medina "extremely delusional and paranoid," recalled Moore, who used hard drugs from the time she was 14 through age 26, but said she quit after her arrest during a 1993 raid landed her in prison for several months.

Despite Medina's increasingly erratic behavior, Moore said she kept up the relationship in hopes of helping him get off drugs.

"I still cared for him. I wanted him to get better," she said.

Though the court orders barred him from the children, Moore and Medina were allowed to attend church and counseling sessions together.

Then, early on March 31, Medina flew into a drug-induced rage at Moore's home and - when Moore tried to stop him from driving off in her car - ran over her twice, nearly severing her spinal cord above the waist.

Though police characterized it as a violent assault and charged Medina, Moore maintains Medina did not intend to hurt her.

She told an Erie County grand jury - and will testify at his trial - that when he grabbed the keys and ran to the vehicle, she rushed after him and sprawled on the trunk, pleading with Medina to stop as he drove in wild circles in front of her home.

When the car lurched to a stop in the driveway, she said, she lost her grip and fell to the pavement. Medina released the brakes and the vehicle rolled backward, pinning her beneath the undercarriage, Moore said. When he realized she was hurt, Medina panicked and pulled forward, further injuring her, she said.

"He said, "I'm going to take care of you,' " Moore recalled. "He picked me up, put me in the back seat and took me to Kenmore Mercy Hospital."

She was quickly transferred to the medical center, the regional trauma center. Medina fled, but surrendered a short time later.

To Lisa Bloch Rodwin, chief of the Erie County district attorney's Domestic Violence Bureau, Medina's intentions matter little.

"If I roll over you with a car and you're paralyzed, it's still assault first," said Rodwin, who will prosecute when Medina comes to trial. "He is responsible for her condition."

As if crippling injuries and subsequent setbacks were not enough, Moore, when she is able, must answer charges that she also violated the protection orders by letting Medina near her children. She permanently could lose custody of her younger son and daughter, who call her daily in the medical center. Her older son hopes to enroll in the state Job Corps.

"I feel really bad for Susan. It's a tragic situation," Rodwin said.

Moore feels she is being unfairly blamed for Medina's reckless behavior.

Prosecutors "are saying I failed to enforce the protection order," she said. "They are holding me responsible for what another person did. That's lunacy."