Victoria man continues to recover after attack (w/video)
July 18, 2014 at 2:18 a.m.
Lupe Sandoval slowly walks into his living room, sits in his reclining chair and smiles.
It's close to sundown, about 7 p.m., and the day's light streams with gusto through the white blinds covering the window behind him. The almost blinding rays make it impossible to see the details of his face, but when he leans in to speak, a scar crossing ear to ear and a sunken face come into focus.
Sandoval, 52, was nearly beaten to death late April after stopping at a convenience store on East Rio Grande Street.
The man charged with the attack is known by almost everyone - including Sandoval.
It was just after 4 a.m. when surveillance video shows Sandoval in the parking lot, a cigarette dangling from his lip. A couple minutes later, he is unconscious and bleeding on the ground. His attack was captured by a camera facing North Laurent Street. Less than an hour later, the singing, homeless Marlin "Pepper" Adams, 59, was in custody - a notion that got mixed reaction from the community.
"You know what?" Sandoval said, running his hand from one end of his scar to the other, "This isn't what hurts - that is."
Comments on the news story published by the Advocate painted Adams as a victim, questioned Sandoval's integrity and motive leading up to the attack and bolstered supportive statements to free Pepper from jail.
Sandoval's cheekbone and chin were fractured during the attack, his left eye was damaged so severely that he is blinded by a cataract, and he suffered injury to his frontal lobe after bone fragments punctured his brain.
He has a long road of healing in front of him but said he is optimistic about recovery - maybe a bit too optimistic; his family laughs at memories of him insisting on driving his car around town after being released from the hospital in May.
"Maybe I can't drive yet," he laughs.
Sandoval, who doesn't remember the attack, said he is having a hard time putting reasoning behind it.
He knew Pepper.
He's helped Pepper.
He's even had to tell Pepper no when he couldn't afford to give him a dollar or two.
"I'm not mad at him," Sandoval said. "I've already made it through so much, but what hurts me is Facebook - that was hard. What I went through and what happened to me, that was nothing like reading those comments."
His wife and daughter said they tried not to look at the comments at first, something that was hard because while they sat in the waiting room before Sandoval was taken to a Houston hospital, they could hear others reading the stories and talking about him.
"To be in that state and hear people bashing my dad," Marissa Sandoval, 24, said, growing quiet at the memory. "It was just so weird how they could turn against my dad like that."
After being rushed to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, Sandoval underwent a 16-hour surgery. The sack that holds brain fluid in was punctured and needed to be repaired. The extent of his injuries is still unknown.
Pepper remains in jail and is facing charges of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury and obstruction or retaliation.
Sandoval's recovery involves several trips to Houston to see specialists - sometimes more than once a week - and he is not able to work.
Before he was attacked, he was manager of the Pan American Golf Association lounge.
"It's unbelievable," his wife, Michelle Sandoval, 53, said through a heavy breath, but she said she's learned a lot of valuable lessons throughout. "A rough four months."
Four months that included the loss of her mother and having to miss the funeral because she was at the hospital with her husband of 34 years.
"I've really learned to not take my loved ones for granted," she said. "To make the most of every minute I have with them because they can be here one minute and gone the next."