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April 11, 1997

A story behind the numbers of Crime Victims Awareness Day
Corkscrew attack forever changes life of man that state program helped

At age 20, Shawn Eaton seemed to have life pretty well in hand. He had completed more than half of his plumber's apprenticeship and was working full time, earning $15 an hour. He felt he had a creative knack for solving plumbing problems.

Then came the late-night trip Oct. 16, 1995, to a local grocery store in Vancouver, Wash.

While walking back home from the store at about 11:30 p.m., Eaton and a friend were approached by two men, each in his 20s. The two began talking about gangs, about colors. One of the men demanded that Eaton hand over the red sweatshirt he was wearing. Eaton refused. One man - Leopold W. Martin - took a swing at Eaton and jammed a corkscrew two inches deep near the left temple of Eaton's head. Eaton took two steps forward, then fell to the ground. He could not open his eyes. His last thought before losing consciousness was that someone should tell his boss that he would be late for work the next day.

In moments, Eaton's life changed forever.

Awakening from a coma six days later, Eaton made a staggering discovery.

"There was a line I could draw on my body," he said. "The left side of my body worked. The right side did not."

He had great difficulty reading, writing and talking. The letters that made up his name were phantoms; he could not find them in his memory.

After 13 weeks of intensive physical and mental therapy - eight hours daily, five days a week - Eaton regained partial use of his right side. Still, much of his right leg does not work; he walks with a limp. He cannot bend the toes on his right foot or his right ankle. The hearing and vision on his right side remain impaired, although much improved. He is now studying reading and math at Linn Benton Community College near Salem, Ore. The letters of his own name no longer are strangers.

The 18-year-old man who assaulted Eaton eventually was convicted of first-degree assault and received a 20-year prison sentence.

"I can't hate him," Eaton said. "I can hate what he did. Leopold Martin is a person who needs to grow up, who needs to learn some things about life."

Eaton continues to recover. He is one of the thousands of claimants during the last year who received assistance from the Crime Victims Compensation Program managed by the Department of Labor & Industries. He will be among the featured speakers at Crime Victims Awareness Day April 18 at the L&I building in Tumwater.

The event is part of national Crime Victims Awareness Week that begins April 13. The intent is to draw attention to the plight of crime victims and provide information about how they can receive assistance.

The Crime Victims Compensation Program at L&I annually receives between 6,000 to 7,000 claims. About 70 percent are accepted. Benefits include payments for time lost from work, medical care, pensions and mental-health counseling, among others. Of the accepted claims, 69 percent are for women and children.

Almost three-quarters of the claims for children are related to sexual assault.

The current two-year budget for the L&I program is $26.5 million. This includes a $6 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The state Legislature oversees the program's operating budget. State funds are appropriated by the Legislature from the Public Safety and Education Account. This is financed through fines and fees collected by state courts.

The program is a payor of last resort, meaning a claimant must have exhausted all other types of assistance.

Medical and mental-health benefits from the program have a $150,000 cap for any single injury. This can be exceeded in cases where continued treatment is necessary to preserve the victim's life or alleviate continuing pain.

Maximums for direct compensation:

  • $15,000 for time-loss (payments for time lost from work).
  • $30,000 for permanent partial disability and/or a combination of time-loss, disability and vocational rehabilitation.
  • $40,000 for pension or survivor benefits.

Behind all the numbers, though, are individuals, such as Eaton.

"The program has been extremely good to me," Eaton said. "I'm thankful for it. I don't know where I'd be without it."

Following is the proposed list of speakers for Crime Victims Awareness Day at the L&I building auditorium, 7273 Linderson Way SW, Tumwater:

  • Gov. Gary Locke
  • Gary Moore, director, Labor & Industries
  • Cletus Nnanabu, program manager, Crime Victims Compensation Program
  • Keith Galbraith, Family Renewal Shelter
  • Shawn Eaton, victim speaker
  • Steve Eckstrom, Office of Crime Victims Advocacy, Olympia
  • Det. Jeff Ulrich, Tumwater Police Department
  • Det. Cliff Ziesemer, Thurston County Sheriff's Office

For more information about the Crime Victims Compensation Program, call 1-800-762-3716


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