Injured teen’s testimony becomes story about overcoming trauma

Injured teen’s testimony becomes story about overcoming trauma

ST. LOUIS – In a hushed courtroom, Janae Edmondson and her mother recounted every horrific moment from the February 2023 night that cost Janae her legs. The testimony came during the final stages of the assault trial against defendant Daniel Riley. It was also testimony that quickly turned into a powerful story about overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds.

Janae’s mother, Francine Edmondson, spoke through tears for 40 minutes about what her family has endured and how her daughter remained alive partly through sheer will.

“I laid down on the ground on my stomach and I lifted her head up, because her face was on the ground. And when I pulled her up, I turned her around and her eyes were so weak. I didn’t know if she was going to make it. And I was so scared, I thought she was going to die right there. And the first thing she said was, ‘Mom, I don’t feel my legs,’ and I just told her, ‘Don’t worry about it right now.’”

She described telling her daughter to promise she’d keep her eyes open in the ambulance.

Janae took the stand afterward, saying how much that meant to her and how she found strength when facing her brother and sister’s first hospital visit.

“When they first walked in, they just stared, didn’t know what to say, and so I made a joke,” she said.

Pictures in the courtroom showed Janae’s incredible progress in just one year, how she’s attending college, and that she now manages the Middle Tennessee State University volleyball team.

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Daniel Riley did not testify during the trial. His attorney brought police officers to the stand to question whether Riley was intoxicated at the time. The strategy appeared to backfire at one point, when one officer said Riley was asking for his cellphone as Janae was receiving life-saving care and said his foot may have slipped on the accelerator after the crash.

In closing arguments, the prosecution argued that the jury should consider that Riley made a series of reckless choices that led to tragedy.

The defense asked jurors to take the emotion out, saying at one point, “Emotions are not evidence.”

The jury has been deliberating since just after 3 p.m. and has asked the judge at least two questions. A verdict could come at any moment.

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