NBC’s ‘Dateline: Against All Odds’ features how murder victim Earon Harper‘s daughter, Erica Hughes, struggled to recover from her near-fatal wounds. She and her mother had been critically shot inside their residence in Louisville, Kentucky, in May 2006. While her mother succumbed to her injuries, Erica fought against all odds and survived. It is an inspiring take like no other, and the episode tells her tale of survival through interviews with the people involved. If you’re intrigued to know more about the case and Erica’s story, we’ve you covered. Let’s begin then, shall we?
Who is Erica Hughes?
On May 18, 2006, Earon Michelle Harper’s landlord stopped by her rental home on Wilson Avenue in south Louisville in Jefferson County, Kentucky. He entered Earon’s residence after finding an open, empty purse on the walk leading to her door and the front door ajar. When no one replied to his repeated knocks, he went inside and was shocked to find his 41-year-old tenant lying on the floor between the front room and a bedroom. She had been fatally shot twice and was declared dead at the scene.
However, the landlord was not prepared for the succeeding scene — he entered the bedroom to find Earon’s two-year-old daughter, Erica Hughes, lying on the bed, badly wounded and moaning in pain. Louisville Metro Police Department Det. Thomas Barth thought the infant was dead when he saw her lying motionless on the bed. He stated, “And then, eventually, I touched her, and she pushed my hand and said, you know, ‘Leave me alone.'” The standard police procedure is to wait for an ambulance, but Erica had been shot in the head.
Hence, a responding sergeant on the scene decided to break protocol and asked his officers to rush the child to a hospital. Officer Steve Kelsey recounted, “He just realized and said, ‘Hey, this is a 2-year-old baby. The ambulance is taking too long. We have to go ahead and act now.'” According to the episode, Thomas held Erica’s bleeding head while Officer Larry Riley took her legs and rushed her into a police car. Steve was responsible for driving little Erica to the Kosair Children’s Hospital.
He recalled, “The sergeant said, ‘Drive as fast as you can, and they’re blocking the streets. And he said he’s willing to deal with what comes after that.” What came after that was a miracle. She was rushed into the emergency room, where doctors and nurses worked frantically to stabilize her. The attending pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Thomas Moriarty, recounted, “Her vital signs were barely measurable.” He performed surgery on the gunshot wounds, cleaned the fragments from her head, repaired the wounds, and preserved brain function.
Where is Erica Hughes Now?
According to the doctor, Erica was lucky the angle of the bullet wasn’t straight through the brain but downward, exiting under her chin. After a delicate three-and-a-half-hour surgery, Erica was placed in ICU, and she woke up and started talking to her family four days after the shooting. The medical personnel recalled how feisty and combative she was in the ICU. The doctors claimed it was a positive sign and that her brain was rebooting. Just 27 days after being shot in the head, Erica was released from rehab and met her rescuers.
Metro Police Officers Steven Kelsey and Thomas Barth were given an award for their actions during a celebration for Dr. Martin Luther King in January 2012. George Burney, President of Pride Inc., said, “They knew this little girl was in critical condition with bullets in her head. They had to get to the hospital right away.” Steve recounted, “The doctor said if we had not decided to do what we did, she would not be here today.” At the time, Erica was 8 years old and studying in third grade. She had lost sight in one of her eyes due to the shooting.
On the fourth anniversary of Erica’s release from Kosair Children’s Hospital, it named Erica its new child safety advocate. Her grandparents became her legal guardian, and she grew up like typical teens. She is a bookworm whose favorite subject is math. Erica stated in an interview, “I read books and go to the library and play outside with my little sisters.” She also thanked her rescuers and acknowledged, “If they wouldn’t have done that, then I could be dead right now.”
Since then, Erica has grown and has become the face of the war on gun violence in Louisville. She had also forgiven her mother’s killers and her assailants. She stated, “I can’t be mad at it all my life.” She goes to local hospitals and speaks to gun violence victims. She said, “I get to help people who are shot and people who are sick and stuff. I tell them if I can survive gunshots, then they can.” Erica Lynne Hughes, now in his teens, is a meritorious student and lives in Kentucky with relatives.
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