SACRAMENTO — Her blue eyes deep in concentration, Cynthia Hammond lifted her right arm from her lap and struggled to make a fist. "I wish I would have fought back against him," she said, gesturing from a motorized wheelchair in her bedroom at a care home in south Sacramento. "But I think I was in shock."
Over the years, her boyfriend, Joe McCoy, had beaten her during fits of rage. But on that fall afternoon in 2009 he was seething. When she returned to their apartment from a stroll along the American River, McCoy accused her of being with another man. He forced Hammond to their living room floor on her hands and knees, then bent her legs back toward her head. She felt something snap, and a burning sensation. Then she felt nothing at all.
"I knew right then that my neck was broken," she said. "I knew that my life was about to change."
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