Update: Carol Armstrong - Determined to prevail

Community unites to help victim of beating

The Post and Courier
Thursday, April 24, 2008

Armstrong benefit

A groundbreaking ceremony for construction of Carol Armstrong's wheelchair-accessible home is scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday at 704 Tierra Loop in the Hidden Hills subdivision off Central Avenue in Knightsville. A spaghetti dinner will follow from 6 to 8 p.m. at Knight's Barn, 2400 U.S. Highway 17A in Summerville. The event includes line dancers and an open bar. Tickets cost $30 and can be purchased by credit card at charlestonhomebuilders.org or at the door. Proceeds will benefit the Armstrong family. For more information, call the Charleston Trident Home Builders Association at 572-1414.

Carol Armstrong doesn't want to be remembered as that woman who was beaten viciously in the head when she finished cleaning an office building in North Charleston.

The attack left her confined to a wheelchair and blind in one eye, the left side of her body paralyzed.

That's not where Armstrong, 43, wants the story to end. When people think of her, she wants them to see a family that was victorious.

"I won't let an evil man with a shovel ruin our family," she said. "He has not defeated me."

Help is on the way. The Charleston Trident Home Builders Association plans to make her goals a reality.

Late on June 4, 2002, Armstrong finished cleaning Carolina Eye Center in North Charleston. As she locked the door from the outside, someone came from behind and beat her in the head until she was unconscious. The man took her car and left her for dead.

A family member found her hours later. She doesn't remember anything from the attack.

She spent the next three months at Medical University Hospital, slipping in and out of comas and having surgery after surgery.

After two months in Atlanta for therapy and three months in a local nursing facility, she finally went home to her family.

Hugh Bolin III pleaded guilty to charges of armed robbery and assault and battery with intent to kill. He's serving a 20-year-sentence in a Columbia prison.

Now, Armstrong's life is a small track from the kitchen to the computer in the living room. The door frames are too small for her wheelchair to make it anywhere else in the 1,200-square-foot house off Ashley Phosphate Road. Her family has to help her get into her bedroom.

She can't tuck her 10-year-old son Daniel into bed or check on her 15-year-old son Jaime. Her husband, James, an electronics engineer, has to do almost everything. She's pretty much stuck.

On Friday, the builders association breaks ground on a 2,400-square-foot, wheelchair-accessible home in Knightsville for the Armstrongs. The materials have been donated by the community. All of the work will be done by volunteers.

There will be a ramp into the house from the two-car garage, and one from the back door. She'll be able to roll out to the yard, play some horseshoes with the boys and grow some herbs and tomatoes. "I miss getting my hands in the dirt," Armstrong said.

In the kitchen, she will be able to reach the counters and the stove. She's looking forward to brushing her hair in front of a vanity and using the bathroom sink. She's been brushing her teeth at the kitchen table for years.

The support from the community is enormous. Area residents and businesses have donated $13,000. A volunteer designer drew the plans for the house, and a volunteer construction supervisor will oversee the work. The plumbers and electricians are all donating their time. Construction is expected to take six to eight months.

"We have everything we need to start construction," said Phillip Ford, executive vice president for the builders association. "We're trying to build them a house, debt-free."

Ford hopes to raise enough money for the Armstrongs to pay off the mortgage on the $75,000 lot and to buy the family a wheelchair-accessible van. Proceeds from a spaghetti dinner fundraiser Friday night will go to that cause, he said.

Armstrong is overwhelmed by the outpouring. She says there are so many other people that need help, and she feels guilty to be the recipient of so much attention.

Her goal, once she's able to move around and reach things in her new house, is to be as self-sufficient as possible. Maybe she can cook a meal, or at least help. Surely she can take some of the load, she said.

"I don't want to be remembered as some tragedy," Armstrong said. "I want people to remember that we triumphed over tragedy, and we're still together as a family."

Related stories

Cleaning woman beaten and robbed - 06/12/02

Family turns prayers, energy to helping beating victim - 06/15/02

Beating suspect caught in extensive 3-day manhunt - 06/15/02

A MOMENT IN TIME: Theirs is a love story, one that survived a brutal night that changed everything - 10/13/02

Thanksgiving - 11/28/02

Benefits will help family of badly beaten woman - 03/02/03

Man gets 20 years for beating woman - 05/20/03

On Father’s Day, some old-fashioned honor - 06/19/05

A passage of time - 03/26/06

Reach Nadine Parks at nparks@postandcourier.com or 937-5573.