Danny Maldonado said Saturday he realizes now that he doesn‚??t have a red Cadillac.
The 20-year-old victim of the July 7 shooting in Plymouth in which three people were killed, including Maldonado‚??s 17-year-old brother, Nicholas, is recovering from gunshot wounds to his head, abdomen and arm.
Also killed were Bradley Swartwood, 21, of Nanticoke, and Lisa Abaunza, 15, of Duryea.
Two men, half-brothers, have been charged in the shootings: Shawn Hamilton, 18; and Sawud Davis, 16.
For a long time after coming out of a coma, Maldonado was confused. He would tell wild stories, like having a red Cadillac that he swore he used to flee the shooting scene.
His mother, Susana Handelong, smiles now when she talks about Danny and his stories, but when you look at her face, you can see the effects the last two months have had on her.
Handelong lives in a small house with her husband, Kevin, and Danny and his fianc√©e, Ashley Bryant, their baby, Izabella, and Maldonado‚??s youngest son, Justin, 13. Space is tight, emotions run high and struggle is the best word to describe their daily lives.
‚??We fit,‚?Ě Susana said of their home, the location of which the family asked not be disclosed. ‚??But nobody has any second thoughts or regrets. We‚??re in this together.‚?Ě
Danny and Ashley plan to marry on May 11. Danny wants his hair to grow back to cover the bullet scar.
‚??I don‚??t want my wedding pictures to be a reminder of that day,‚?Ě he said.
Their daughter, Izabella, was born five weeks before the shootings. Danny goes for rehab treatment every day for 3 1/2 hours. Ashley can‚??t work because she has to care for Izabella. Susana has a job and Kevin is currently working in Wisconsin. Justin returns to school this week.
‚??Danny‚??s disabled,‚?Ě Susana said. ‚??He has a traumatic brain injury. His feet don‚??t move at the same time and his right arm hasn‚??t come all the way back yet. He has vision problems, too.‚?Ě
And there are daily expenses: medications, co-payments, food, baby needs, house payments, car payments, school clothes, gasoline. Plus Danny has to get to therapy and back. Susana paid $4,000 to bury Nicky.
Through it all, Danny smiles, especially when he holds Izabella. He weighs 104 pounds now, down from the 120-plus at the time of the shootings, but up from 98 pounds when he entered Allied Services John Heinz Institute for in-patient therapy.
There are no charges pending against Danny Maldonado.
Danny Maldonado was in his second-floor apartment at 401 First St., Plymouth, on July 7. The night before, he and Ashley had a tiff and she left with Izabella to stay at her mother‚??s house in Nanticoke. Danny said he knew his brother ‚??smoked weed‚?Ě and was mixed up with Swartwood, but he really didn‚??t know to what extent the two were involved in illegal activity. He said Swartwood was buying and selling guns. Susana said her late son had some part of what was going on there.
Swartwood, on the other hand, was ‚??flashy,‚?Ě according to Danny. Swartwood like to flash money around and Danny says he thinks Hamilton and Davis were after money, not drugs, on the day of the shootings.
‚??Who brings a gun to the supermarket?‚?Ě Susana said. ‚??Unless you‚??re going to rob it.‚?Ě
Danny refers to Hamilton as ‚??big guy,‚?Ě and Davis as ‚??little one.‚?Ě
Danny said when Nicky and Brad returned to the apartment with Hamilton and Davis, he never expected what was about to happen. He said he didn‚??t hear any arguing coming from the front room, but Davis entered the room where Danny was and said, ‚??Hey, you gonna want to come in here and see this.‚?Ě
Danny got up and went into the room and ‚??little one‚?Ě told him to empty his pockets and said, ‚??This ain‚??t no (expletive) game.‚?Ě Danny said ‚??big guy‚?Ě pulled out a gun.
‚??I ran at him and lunged at him to try to get the gun,‚?Ě Danny said. ‚??He just swatted me off him and shot me in the head.‚?Ě
Danny said he fell to the floor, but was semi-conscious. He remembers looking up and seeing the gun pointed at him.
‚??I remember thinking if he shoots me again, the bullet could go through me and through the floor and hit the lady downstairs,‚?Ě Danny said. ‚??Then he shot me again and I don‚??t remember anything after that.‚?Ě
Danny doesn‚??t remember the others being shot and killed. He said he knows ‚??big guy‚?Ě shot him. He said if ‚??little one‚?Ě had the gun, he would have been able to take him down.
One bullet entered Danny‚??s head; another went through his right arm. He thinks a third bullet entered his chest and exited his lower back ‚?? the bullet pierced his liver.
His brother and two others were dead.
It wasn‚??t until July 24 that Danny found out what happened; that Brad, Lisa and Nicky were all dead.
‚??I thought Brad and Nicky got away in a fancy getaway car,‚?Ě Danny said. His mother said this is another example of the wild stories Danny would concoct during his recovery. ‚??I actually hoped Brad and Lisa got married. I didn‚??t know how young Lisa was; she told us she was older.‚?Ě
Susana said she was at Knoebels Amusement Resort when she got a call to come to the Plymouth police station. She didn‚??t know what had happened and it was hours before she knew Danny was at Geisinger Medical Center in Plains Township and even longer before she was told her other son, Nicky, was dead.
The delay in finding out what happened still haunts Susana. She was so upset at the hospital that she became belligerent.
‚??I‚??m surprised they didn‚??t call security and haul me out of there,‚?Ě she said.
But she just wanted to know where Nicky was. She knew Danny was fighting for his life, but she didn‚??t know anything about what had happened.
While Susana and Ashley and Kevin and others were waiting to hear about Danny and Nicky, two kids were in a corner of the same waiting room just fooling around and laughing.
‚??They heard us talking; they saw us crying; they knew why we were there,‚?Ě Ashley said.
The next day, while watching the news, Kevin Handelong recognized the two young men arrested for the crimes ‚?? they were the same two kids who were in the waiting room at Geisinger the night before.
Susana remembers getting calls from people telling her about Facebook postings: R.I.P. Nicky, Lisa and Brad ‚?? even R.I.P. Danny. She was getting information before being told officially that Nicky was dead. Finally, at 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning ‚?? several hours after the shootings, She was told her son was dead.
‚??It was awful,‚?Ě she said. ‚??I mean, we were greeted by the chaplain, we talked to a neurosurgeon and we were told Danny was being treated by the trauma team. We knew it was bad. People were posting that they saw body bags coming out of the apartment.‚?Ě
Danny pulled through, but he still has a long road to recovery. He no longer tells those wild stories, like when he said he went to the movies and stopped at Burger King for lunch when he wasn‚??t even allowed to eat solid food.
‚??I just wanted a burger so bad,‚?Ě he said. ‚??I was so hungry.‚?Ě
He remembers the wild stories. He knows now he never owned a red Cadillac.
‚??I still have that busted down Jeep,‚?Ě he said.
He has accepted his rehabilitation. He never complains about having to exercise for those 3 ¬Ĺ hours each day. He wears a special device to exercise his fingers. He‚??s determined.
And he lives in fear. Everyone watches for strange cars and visitors in the neighborhood. Susana said she moved to Pennsylvania from New Jersey to escape the gang influence. She said Hamilton and Davis are from Philadelphia. She doesn‚??t know who they know or who they were involved with; it‚??s a lingering feeling that may never go completely away.
A few weeks after the fatal shooting, another occurred on West Shawnee Avenue, just a block and a half from the First Street scene. Bullets hit a house where Ashley‚??s best friend lives, but no one was injured.
They don‚??t know if there was any connection, but they worry.
When asked how she copes with everything, Ashley gets teary eyed and points to Izabella.
Long before the shootings, Susana painted a decal on her living room archway: ‚??Family ‚?? where life begins and love never ends.‚?Ě
She said that saying means more now than ever. She said she sacrifices a lot to assure Danny, Ashley and Izabella have what they need.
‚??I don‚??t buy breakfast or lunch,‚?Ě she said. ‚??Now, the baby comes first.‚?Ě
Danny wears his new sneakers all the time. He needed them for therapy and he knows his future and the future of his family depend on him getting better.
‚??I just want to go back to school to learn mechanics,‚?Ě Danny said. ‚??I want to go back to work; I wish I could work to help my mom. And then I wouldn‚??t have to sit here and wait for people to give me money.‚?Ě
Danny says he doesn‚??t have the energy he once had, but he says he can get it back.
‚??I wish I could get my arm fixed,‚?Ě he said as he shows the bullet wounds. ‚??Then I could go to school and get a job.‚?Ě
And maybe some day buy that red Cadillac.