The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

An attack left a woman in a coma. She woke up and accused her brother.

The man has been charged with the attempted murder of his sister, who was comatose for two years

Wanda Palmer was found suffering from severe head trauma at her home in June 2020. (WFOR)

When Jackson County, W.Va., sheriff’s deputies found Wanda Palmer on her couch in June 2020, she was slumped over and bleeding from head wounds.

“We thought for sure this was a murder case,” Sheriff Ross Mellinger told The Washington Post.

Palmer ended up surviving, but she fell into a coma. Over two long years, as she lay unconscious, the case stalled. Investigators could not turn up enough evidence to charge a suspect.

But earlier this month, Palmer woke up — and she told deputies that it was her brother who had nearly killed her, Mellinger said. Daniel Palmer is in custody and has been charged with attempted murder and malicious wounding, according to the sheriff’s department.

“Just the fact that she survived is nothing short of a miracle,” Mellinger told The Post. “But to be able to come back … two years later and identify who her attacker was, it’s spectacular.”

It was not immediately clear whether Daniel Palmer had an attorney. According to a criminal complaint obtained by CNN, Palmer denied attacking his sister, saying he was not at her house around the time of the assault.

Wanda and Daniel Palmer lived about a half-mile apart on the same property near Cottageville, a hamlet in Jackson County near the state’s northwestern border, Mellinger said. He said Wanda lived alone in a mobile home. The criminal complaint noted there was a history of violence between the siblings, CNN reported.

One morning in June 2020, someone showed up to mow Wanda’s grass and found her inside, having been attacked, Mellinger said. Her wounds appeared to have been caused by an edged weapon, such as a machete or a hatchet, although investigators did not find a weapon, he said.

Other evidence was hard to find. Wanda’s home had no electricity, so there was no surveillance footage or cellphone records. Mellinger said Daniel was a suspect early on because of the siblings’ history. One man told deputies he had seen Daniel on his sister’s porch the previous night, about 10 hours before Wanda was discovered, but it wasn’t enough to go on, Mellinger said.

Deputies had even traveled across the state to chase various leads, but in the end, “we had nothing,” Mellinger said.

Then, just before the July Fourth holiday, the sheriff’s department was contacted by Wanda’s caseworker, saying she was awake. Deputies interviewed her shortly afterward, Mellinger said. According to a criminal complaint obtained by WCHS, Wanda said that she remembered being hurt on her head at her home and that it was her brother who did it.

Asked why Daniel would have hurt her, Wanda replied that he was “mean,” WCHS reported, citing the complaint.

Mellinger said he’s unsure whether Wanda will fully recover from the attack. He referred to her waking from the coma after more than two years as a miracle.

“From an investigative standpoint, this is kind of the holy grail,” Mellinger said. “You don’t ever get a chance to talk to somebody once they go into a coma.”