The healing has begun, but pain, anger remain Shooting victim reorders her life ELLICOTT CITY/ELKRIDGE


Mindy Murzda sits on her living room couch, massaging her thin left leg, trying to soothe nerve pains that run up and down. The bullet that struck her spine is sending yet another reminder.

"The doctor says it's good that I feel the pain," she says. "That means the nerves are growing again."

Life for the 21-year-old Ellicott City resident -- a former varsity soccer player at Mount Hebron -- has changed dramatically since she was shot July 17 at Pine and Baltimore streets near the University of Maryland Dental School. She was selling hot dogs and drinks at lunchtime with a friend when two youths tried to rob her, snatching off her apron, which contained no more than $50. One of them shot her twice in the back, striking her in the pelvis and spine.

"It all happened really fast," she said. "It was like a bad nightmare happened."

As she lay on the street, waiting for help to come, "I was picturing the shooter's face," she said. "I was thinking what could I have done differently. What could I have done? There was nothing I could have done with two bullets."

Her friend, 27-year-old John Trikilis of Lutherville, was shot three times. He is at home now, and like Ms. Murzda, is learning to walk again.

She is anxious to tell her story to warn people that crime and violence can happen to anyone at any time. She thought she was safe on the campus, among security guards, closed-circuit cameras and people eating their lunches on park benches. But she was wrong, she says.

Her family moved to the 5000 block of Stone Hill Drive six years ago from Prince George's County, ironically, to escape the violence.

"Before I was shot, I didn't think anything could hurt me," she said. "Now that I can't move my leg, I get more scared. I think, 'What can somebody do to me now?' "

A week after the shooting, police arrested four Baltimore residents and charged them with attempted murder, conspiracy to rob and robbery with a deadly weapon, among other violations. Police allege Anthony Smith, 18, of the 1000 block of Pennsylvania Ave., was the trigger man, and Jacoby Bennett, 16, of the 1000 block of Stowe Place, was his accomplice.

Police allege Tiffany Bennett, 22, of the 2700 block of Boarman Ave., and Robert Bernard, 26, of the 700 block of W. Fayette St., distracted nearby security guards so they would not notice the robbery.

All four are in jail and will be tried Dec. 8 in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

"If [the gunman] gets off, it will kill me," Ms. Murzda said. "It would just tear me apart. I just think the law is too loose."

She spent weeks at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, and even more at other hospitals for physical therapy, which she is continuing at Columbia Medical Plan.

Now she's trying to put the pieces of her life back together. Last week, for the first time, she took off a spine brace she'd been wearing for months. She crawls on her hands to get around at home. Taking a step on two feet is painful.

"She screams out loud," said her mother, Lynn Murzda.

"It's only sometimes -- well, a few times," Mindy Murzda concedes.

"Everybody's life has been changed," said Peter Murzda, her father. "You don't expect having a grown daughter crawling on the carpet."

She would have been president of her rugby club at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, where she studies political studies and English. She is taking classes from home now, but hopes to return to campus next semester.

A 1988 graduate of Mount Hebron, her plight came to the attention of students there, and last week they contributed more than $400 in pennies and dollars during homecoming festivities to help with medical and other expenses.

Like her life, Ms. Murzda's outlook has changed. She looks at crime and punishment differently. She supports longer sentences for criminals.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke visited her when she was at Shock Trauma and apologized for what happened. She told him he needed to start programs to keep youths occupied. "I think Baltimore needs a lot of help," she said. "I think they need to beef up. But what can they do?"

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