Texas woman says mental health system failed her attacker

Fort Worth Star-TelegramMarch 23, 2010 

FORT WORTH — Brandi Todd won't allow herself tears.

A little more than a week ago, the 28-year-old Morgan Mill mother of two was watching her children play at Stephenville City Park when a stranger walked up behind her bench and plunged a knife into her back, nearly severing her spinal cord.

Michael Allen Howard, 42, a client of the regional Mental Health Mental Retardation, was soon arrested by Stephenville police.

On Monday, from her hospital bed at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth, she spoke publicly with reporters for the first time about the challenges ahead and her eagerness to tackle them.

She can't move her legs. She at times has difficulty catching her breath while talking. But you won't catch her crying.

"Breaking down and crying is not going to make me walk," Todd told reporters. "It's not going to help my kids. It's not going to help my mom or dad. Nobody wants to see me cry, so we just laugh."

Howard remained in the Erath County Jail on Monday night with bail set at $750,000. He faces a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. In a conversation with police shortly after his arrest, he blamed the attack on his inability to get help from MHMR, Stephenville Police Chief Roy Halsell said.

Coke Beatty, executive director of the Pecan Valley MHMR, where Howard was reportedly a patient, did not return phone messages Monday.

Todd said that Howard must be held accountable for his actions but that the attack also illustrates a failure of the mental health system.

"People need to know there are people out there that need help, and the system failed this man. He needed help. He asked for help. For whatever reason, he didn't get it," Todd said.

"Right now that reason is really irrelevant to me. The point is he didn't get it, and because he was failed, my entire family will have to alter everything we know about life."

Read more of this story at Star-Telegram.com

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