Whatever Happened To ... the woman burned alive

By Kathleen Hom
Sunday, June 27, 2010

Three weeks after a judge dismissed Yvette Cade's request to keep a protective order against her estranged husband, Cade was in George Washington University Hospital with third-degree burns blanketing her torso, arms and head.

Cade had been working at a Clinton T-Mobile store on Oct. 10, 2005, when her husband, Roger B. Hargrave, stormed in, doused her with gasoline, chased her outside and set her on fire. She survived, but as described in a Washington Post story a year later, she still could barely feed herself and was frightened of her kitchen, gasoline, cars and gas stations.

Hargrave was sentenced to life in prison in 2006, while Cade began speaking out against domestic violence, including appearances on "Oprah" and "CNN With Paula Zahn" and in People magazine. District Judge Richard A. Palumbo, who had dismissed Cade's request to maintain the protective order, retired in July 2006, a month before he was to face a public hearing before the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities on charges of misconduct in the case. The commission then dropped the charges. Palumbo maintained that the dismissal of Cade's request was a clerical error.

Cade, now 36, underwent her 28th surgery in May, which prepared her for another skin graft later this year to help her regain mobility in her arms. She makes weekly trips to the Johns Hopkins Burn Center for checkups and sees a therapist to help with her fears.

"It's painful, of course, and sometimes it's unmanageable," Cade said of the medical treatments. Some painkillers have lost their effectiveness, and there's an annoying itching after the grafts.

She worked up the nerve to visit friends at the T-Mobile store where she used to work. She also can iron, drive and cook, though all take more time than before. But her 17-year-old daughter and her sister, Shereen Jackson, provide lots of help, Cade said.

Cade continues speaking nationwide. She said her reflection in the mirror is a constant reminder of what she has endured, and her memories of the incident are vivid. "The sky was blazing and burning," she recalled. "I thought I was going blind because the flames were so bright."

Doctors first predicted she would need at least 40 surgeries to regain a normal life. But Cade said she hopes 35 operations will be enough. "Preparing for surgery, it brings me back to Oct. 10," she explained. "It's like losing my life all over again. Anytime you go to surgery, anything can happen. ... I don't want to die."

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