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Interview With Carolyn Thomas

Aired February 17, 2005 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, exclusive: Her crazed ex-boyfriend allegedly killed her mother. Then, he shot her in the head, leaving her a woman without a face. Her right eye, cheekbone, nose and upper jaw destroyed. And now, in her first TV interview, Carolyn Thomas tells us how her faith helped her survive this horrific ordeal. And to cope with the grueling process of trying to put her face back together again. Her incredible story is next, it's exclusive, on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening. A very special edition of LARRY KING LIVE tonight, a story of tragedy and overcoming tragedy. Our special guest is Carolyn Thomas. Carolyn was shot in the face, allegedly by her boyfriend. We say allegedly, the trial of her boyfriend will take place in April in Texas.

She was shot in the face, lost one eye and much of the soft tissue and bone tissue that make up the human face. Later we will meet her plastic surgeon.

Carolyn, thank you very much for coming. This occurred on December 4th, 2003. What happened?

CAROLYN THOMAS, SHOT IN THE FACE: I was -- I was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with a friend and he was, I guess he was downstairs talking with one of his friends outside of the apartment.

KING: Had you been dating him a long time?

THOMAS: Yes, I had been dating him eight years before he went to prison. We had been dating eight years. And when he came home ...

KING: So he was in prison. Why, he had committed another crime?


KING: What was that?

THOMAS: He got caught with drugs.

KING: So he served time in prison. Were you his girlfriend when he went to prison?


KING: Did you correspond with him, visit him in prison?

THOMAS: Occasionally, yes.

KING: And he came back and you started going out again.


KING: Well, what happened on December 4th?

THOMAS: I was on the phone with a girlfriend. He came back inside the apartment and went to screaming and yelling that someone was inside the apartment. My mother and I tried to calm him down, to tell him that there was no one in there.

KING: He thought there was another man?

THOMAS: A man? I guess. I would guess so. He thought it was another man, but there was no one in there but us three. My mother and I continued to try to calm him down, and he grabbed a gun.

KING: He came with the gun?

THOMAS: Yeah. Well, the gun was already there. He ...

KING: He had a gun in the house?

THOMAS: Yes. It was his gun.

KING: OK. But he left it in your ...

THOMAS: Yes. And he picked it up and grabbed me around the neck and he just went to screaming and yelling about someone being in the house. And I tried to calm him down, to tell him there was no one there, and when I looked in his eyes I saw he was absolutely (UNINTELLIGIBLE). To be honest, Larry, that's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and I...

KING: Had he been violent before?

THOMAS: Yes, he had.

KING: Had he hit you?

THOMAS: Yes, he had.

KING: So you couldn't have been shocked at the screaming?


KING: Then what happened?

THOMAS: I immediately started praying. My mother was standing in the hallway. We were wrestling for the gun back and forth, and he snatched the gun from me and shot my mother in the stomach right there in front of me.

KING: Killing her?

THOMAS: Not at that instant, no.

KING: She died later?


KING: And then what?

THOMAS: I guess he took me to the living room. That's where I kind of draw a blank. That's where I kind of had an out-of-body experience. And when I woke up from that, I remember hearing my mother saying, "Carolyn, where's the telephone? Where's the phone?"

KING: Did you know you were shot?

THOMAS: I knew something was wrong with my face, but I didn't really know what was wrong with it.

KING: Did you hear the gunshot?

THOMAS: No, sir.

KING: Did you hear the gunshot that shot your mother?

THOMAS: Yes, sir. I heard that.

KING: Call me Larry.


KING: I know this is hard for you, Carolyn. This is going to be very difficult, because you're going to have to testify in court as well in April.


KING: Did you have pain?

THOMAS: When I got shot, no, Larry, I did not feel anything. That's so remarkable about the situation. When I got (UNINTELLIGIBLE), I didn't feel anything, I just -- I didn't feel anything.

KING: You knew something was really wrong.

THOMAS: Yes, I did.

KING: Was your mother conscious?

THOMAS: At the time, yes, because she was asking me where the telephone was.

KING: Did you call 911?

THOMAS: No, because Terrence took the phone with him, and we were not able to call 911. And that's when she took it upon herself to get up and go get help. And ... KING: Did she go next door?

THOMAS: Across the hall or perhaps downstairs.

KING: While in shock?

THOMAS: She didn't make it, yes.

KING: She didn't make it?

THOMAS: No, Larry. She didn't.

KING: She fainted or collapsed ...

THOMAS: Yes, and died there in the hall.

KING: Oh, she died there in the hall?


KING: So who came running to find you?

THOMAS: The police.

KING: So they found out about it from someone, right?

THOMAS: Yes, my neighbor downstairs called 911.

KING: And then did the ambulance come right away?

THOMAS: I'm not sure about that.

KING: What's the next thing you remember?

THOMAS: Waking up in the hospital there in Tempe, Arizona there. And asking where was my mother. And I remember my father telling me that she did not make it.

KING: When did you get to see how you looked?

THOMAS: When I was at the Santa Fe rehab center. I wasn't -- my jaws were wired and I wasn't allowed to drink water. And I used to sneak in the restroom and try to drink water. And while I was in there one time, I just wanted to know the extent of the damage and lifted my bandages up, and I saw.

KING: And what did you see?

THOMAS: There was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) around my face.

KING: So we're hiding that now with your bandages.


KING: On the right side of your face, do you have an eye?


KING: Do you have a nose?


KING: What's where your cheek was?

THOMAS: Nothing.

KING: There's just bone?

THOMAS: Yes. It's hollow there. Just nothing.

KING: Where did the bullet go through?

THOMAS: Here. And down that way.

KING: So it missed your left eye?


KING: It went through the right side and then down out the left side?

THOMAS: Yes. At an angle.

KING: Boy. When you saw yourself, what did you do?

THOMAS: Cried. Because I just couldn't believe it, that something like that could happen to me. It was a shock, you know.

KING: Were you in a lot of pain then?

THOMAS: Yes. I was on medication there.

KING: Why the tracheotomy? Why the apparatus in your ...

THOMAS: Because of the surgeries, the upcoming surgeries. It's going to be there until after I have the surgeries.

KING: How many surgeries -- we'll ask the doctor later. But you'll have to undergo a few, right?

THOMAS: Yes, sir.

KING: We'll ask him later, but are they optimistic? I mean, do they think they can rebuild the face?

THOMAS: Yes, they do.

KING: What was the out-of-body experience after you were shot? When you say you had an out-of-body, what was that?

THOMAS: It was very calming, because I didn't feel the pain of the gunshot.

KING: What did you see?

THOMAS: I didn't see a bright light there, if that's what you're asking. All I can remember is just calmness. Not being scared or shaking. It was just like being in the bosom of your friend, kind of ...

KING: How do you explain that?

THOMAS: Just, other than being -- just using the word calm would be the best way I could explain it. It was relaxing. I don't know. That's kind of a -- you would think, why would I saw relaxing after being shot but it wasn't a -- you know, I don't know how to explain it, it just ...

KING: You don't have to. The whole thing is extraordinary. We'll be right back with Carolyn Thomas on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Carolyn Thomas. This trial will take place in April.

The cops find your boyfriend Terrence naked on the street outside the house where you were shot. How do you explain that?

THOMAS: I can't explain it. I don't know why he was outside naked.

KING: Have you spoken to him since all of this?

THOMAS: Not directly, no.

KING: Indirectly?

THOMAS: Through his mother.

KING: What did his mother say to you?

THOMAS: That he's sorry and, you know, he didn't mean to do it.

KING: Was he given the -- was he high on drugs?

THOMAS: That's my understanding, that he was. I really don't know.

KING: Have they charged him with first-degree murder?


KING: Where will the trial be?

THOMAS: It will be in Waco, Texas.

KING: Where the crime occurred, right?


KING: All right. You lose your mother and your face. That's what happened to you.


KING: The missing of the mother must be terrible. Because you saw her shot.

THOMAS: That's the worst of it all.

KING: You mean, you regard that as worse than what happened to you?


KING: Do you have brothers and sisters?


KING: Only child.


KING: Your dad living?


KING: How is he handling all this?

THOMAS: He's handling the best that he can now. I think he loves me, but he doesn't know how to handle this anger towards me going back with Terrence.

KING: He's angry at you because you went back with that guy after he got out of prison?


KING: You'd think that he would direct the anger more towards Terrence.

THOMAS: Yes, well, he's angry with him, yes. He is.

KING: Do you blame yourself?


KING: Why did you go back?

THOMAS: Because Terrence told me that he was going to become an honest man. He was going to be a truck driver, get a job. I -- I thought that after being in prison that he was rehabilitated, you know? That he was going to correct and change and become a man, you know. Hold down a job.

KING: You loved him?

THOMAS: Yes, I did.

KING: Are you a very religious person?


KING: Has this changed you?

THOMAS: In what way, Larry?

KING: Do you still believe in God?

THOMAS: Yes, I do.

KING: Why?

THOMAS: Because God saved me.

KING: But some might think you might be a little angry about being shot.

THOMAS: No, I'm not angry at God. I'm not angry at anyone about being shot. I am taking it as a learning experience.

KING: Really?


KING: What's your feelings about Terrence?

THOMAS: I don't have any for Terrence.

KING: Hatred?


KING: He killed your mother.

THOMAS: Yes, he did. But I don't hate anyone.

KING: So your faith remains.


KING: You think God saved your life.

THOMAS: Yes, he did. I know he did.

KING: How have you adjusted to how you look? Do you see yourself? Do you ever take the bandages off?


KING: But you don't look at yourself, do you?

THOMAS: Yes, I do.

KING: Why?

THOMAS: Well, I have to. To change the bandages and to do the dressing...


KING: You change your own?

THOMAS: Yes, I do.

KING: You put the dressing on?

THOMAS: Yes, I do.

KING: Do you live by yourself?

THOMAS: Yes, I do. With my dog.

KING: How about friends?

THOMAS: I have some.

KING: Do they come over regularly or they...


KING: You can't work. How do you support yourself?

THOMAS: I get Social Security, and I have a good friend that stands by me that helps me out.

KING: Friend of the family?

THOMAS: No, he's just a good friend that I met. I would say he's (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: OK. Are there certain -- do you have dietary -- are there certain things you can't eat?

THOMAS: I don't eat food. I have a liquid diet.

KING: You can't swallow?

THOMAS: No. No, I cannot.

KING: What do you miss the most?

THOMAS: Eating.

KING: All kinds of eating?


KING: So the food -- your -- so this goes directly into your stomach, right? This ...

THOMAS: I have a tube.

KING: The tube is in your stomach?


KING: And they feed your intravenously -- liquid...


KING: Are you hungry? Or does that satisfy you?

THOMAS: It satisfies me, yes, it does. Takes the hunger away.

KING: You -- we're told that you occasionally sneak things like a taste of chocolate.

THOMAS: Yes. I do.

KING: In fact, is that true, before the shooting, you worked in a candy factory?


KING: You made Skittles?

THOMAS: Well, I didn't make them, I packaged them.

KING: And Snickers Crunch?


KING: Did you sneak a lot of eating?

THOMAS: We didn't have to sneak them. We could just eat them.

KING: What about all these years with Terrence, when he hit you before, when he was violent with you before. Why didn't that scare you enough to leave?

THOMAS: Because at the time I loved him, and I thought that I could change him. I thought that he would change. I mean, when he would hit me, he would say he was sorry and that he loved me and that it wouldn't happen again, and, of course, I believed him and I thought that he wouldn't do it again, and that he did love me.

KING: But -- coming to the house, thinking someone was there, was he a jealous person?

THOMAS: Yes, he was.

KING: You should have got rid of him.


KING: Maybe it was hard to get rid of someone like that.

THOMAS: Well, yes, it was. Being that he told me that if I would ever try to leave him, he would kill me, and he had said that so many times.

KING: So you live with the guilt of your own association, too, right?


KING: You knew it was a mistake.

THOMAS: Yes, I did.

KING: You believed him and?


KING: You paid a price for that.

THOMAS: Yes, I did.

KING: A steep price.

THOMAS: Yes, I did.

KING: We'll be back with more of Carolyn Thomas. Then, at the bottom of the hour, we will meet Dr. Gene Alford, who is her plastic surgeon. He is going to tell us what they're going to do, he and a team of plastic surgeons. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Carolyn Thomas. It's a tragic story. He didn't even let you have any male friends, right?


KING: Tell me about, I want to understand, the first time he ever hit you.

THOMAS: It was for stopping for one of his friends who asked -- who pulled me over just to ask where he was.

KING: You were driving?

THOMAS: A car. And when I got home I told Terrence that his friend was looking for him and he got angry, because I pulled over to talk to him and he didn't want me talking to him.

KING: So he hit you.

THOMAS: Yes, he did.

KING: Now, why then -- right then, wasn't that a pretty good sign that you helped his friend and he hit's you? Can you associate -- remember back why you didn't get rid of him then? Not allowed to have any male friends. He hits you because you're nice to his friends ...

THOMAS: I was scared, Larry, just to be honest. If someone tells you if you try to leave them they're going to kill you -- I was scared.

KING: It's easy to be a critic from the outside.


KING: Is it true that he told you who you could talk to?

THOMAS: Yes he did.

KING: What you could wear?

THOMAS: Mm-hmm. I only could wear sweat suits, ripped shorts, tennis shoes.

KING: Couldn't be something attractive to men?

THOMAS: No. Not at all.

KING: How about when you went out with him?

THOMAS: We never went out?

KING: Did you live together?


KING: And never went out.

THOMAS: When we first met, yes. But later on in the relationship we did not. He went out by himself and I wasn't allowed to go out.

KING: Did he have a job?

THOMAS: No, he did not.

KING: When he went to prison, he went for three years, right?

THOMAS: About three and a half.

KING: During that time did you date other people?

THOMAS: Yes, I did.

KING: How did you feel?

THOMAS: I felt like a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) bird, free.

KING: OK, now he gets out. He calls you.

THOMAS: Uh-huh.

KING: Why did you see him?

THOMAS: Well, I just -- I wanted to give him another chance. Because he said he was going to get a job. He was going to be a truck driver.

KING: You believed him?

THOMAS: Yes I did. And I figure anybody that goes to prison should be rehabilitated.

KING: Now you suffered, according to this, at his hands, black eyes, bruises, right?

THOMAS: Uh-huh.

KING: He never broke a bone, though.

THOMAS: No, sir.

KING: What was he doing with a gun? Why did he have a gun?

THOMAS: He'd been had that gun before he left.

KING: So when he came into the house...

THOMAS: Uh-huh.

KING: ... what made him think there was a man there? What...

THOMAS: I have no idea.

KING: Were you shocked that he picked up the gun?

THOMAS: Yes. Well. Yes, yes I was. Yes, I was.

KING: In your mind, have you been able to figure out why he shot your mother.

THOMAS: I -- no. I don't know why he shot her. She had nothing to do with it. I have no idea.

KING: He wasn't angry at her, was he?

THOMAS: No. No. He was not angry -- shouldn't have been angry with her.

KING: So how do people react to you now? Who sees you without the bandages?

THOMAS: I had some close friends that came to see me in the hospital that have seen me without the bandages and some family that had seen me without the bandages.

KING: And doctors. THOMAS: Yes, doctors, of course.

KING: How do people treat you like -- when you fly on an airplane and you're all bandaged. What kind of looks do you get?

THOMAS: I get triple takes, Larry. Not even a box of cereal. They look. Of course they do. And some just continue to stare. And some will ask, you know, what happened. And I don't mind telling.

KING: Have you forgiven him?

THOMAS: Yes, I have.

KING: Takes a lot to do that.

THOMAS: Yes it does. But you are supposed to forgive and forget.

KING: But you got to testify.

THOMAS: Yes, I do.

KING: Are you concerned about that.

THOMAS: Yes, I am concerned that I'll become emotional.

KING: The jury, I guess, will be shown pictures of you, will they not? These people -- I imagine they took pictures.

THOMAS: Yes, I'm sure they did.

KING: Because you're not going to have to take your bandages off in court?

THOMAS: No. But at one time I thought he should see me with my bandages off.

KING: Maybe he should. So his mother contacts you to tell you he's sorry.


KING: You talk to her?


KING: What do you say to her?

THOMAS: Really not much at all. I try not to be rude. But I talk to her, you know, briefly. Not -- occasionally. She may call once every blue moon.

KING: What do you want to do with your life?

THOMAS: Well, I would like to go back to work and, of course, help other people that are in a situation like I was. KING: Women who are trapped.

THOMAS: Being abused. Yes.

KING: A lot of them.

THOMAS: Yes, there is.

KING: And most of them are in a marital situation.


KING: I mean, they're married and have kids and are trapped at home.


KING: You were never married.

THOMAS: No, sir.

KING: Did he ever ask you to marry him?

THOMAS: Yes, he did. But of course it was a lie, we're not married or were never married him .

KING: But why didn't he force you to marry him? He forced you to do everything else.

THOMAS: I have no idea. I don't know the answer to that question.

KING: Are you worried about the trial?

THOMAS: No, Larry, I'm not worried about ...

KING: You're going to have to face him.

THOMAS: Yes, I am, and I am ready to do so.

KING: You're at peace with yourself on that?

THOMAS: Yes, I am.

KING: Do you still have pain?

THOMAS: Occasionally, yes, I do.

KING: What do you, you don't have a nose...

THOMAS: No, sir.

KING: So you breathe through your mouth.

THOMAS: Yeah, I breathe through my mouth, and of course, there is that open space there. I can breathe through there as well. KING: And you're fed through the stomach.


KING: We'll take a break and we'll come back and joining us will be Dr. Gene Alford, facial plastic surgeon, head up a team, he's in Houston, that will rebuild Carolyn's face. Don't go away.


KING: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE. Remaining with us, of course, is Carolyn Thomas, shot in the face, allegedly by her boyfriend. He will go on trial in April. She lost one eye and much of the soft tissue and bone tissue that make up the human face.

Joining us from Houston is Dr. Gene Alford, the facial plastic surgeon who will head up the team that will rebuild Carolyn's face. Dr. Alford, how did you get this patient?

DR. GENE ALFORD, HOUSTON SURGEON: Well, Larry, the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery has a program called "Face to Face" that has participating surgeons who are willing to take on these cases, women who are survivors of domestic violence. And our goal is to eliminate, with facial plastic surgery, the visible evidence of their previous relationship.

KING: And you then therefore got Carolyn how?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Carolyn was referred to me through the program, the directors Ann Holton (ph) at the American Academy of Facial Plastic Surgery. And she called and described to me Carolyn's situation, asked if we would be willing to take on her case and we said "Yes."

KING: You do this for free?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir. It's all charity care provided by the surgeons at the Methodist Hospital at Houston, Texas.

KING: Of the cases you have seen, how bad is Carolyn?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, this is -- this is the most severe domestic violence case by far. It's far more equivalent to someone who's had a cancer surgery, surgery to move a cancer from their face. And it's -- it's as big a defect as we hope to ever see.

KING: What has been done so far?

ALFORD: Well, Carolyn has received excellent care to this point as far as stabilization and just preserving her life. The doctors in Waco that managed her did a great job, but once she left the acute care of the hospital there's not really been much reconstructive surgery done at all.

I anticipate Carolyn is going to have, at a minimum, four to five surgeries, possibly more if we encounter any setbacks or complications. But there is a team of surgeons. We will meet with Carolyn as a group, examine her, develop an operating plan and proceed based on what we have determined there. It's not just me that's doing this, there's a whole host of surgeons, Dr. Jeffrey Friedman (ph) is a plastic surgeon. Dr. Charlie Soparker (ph) who is an oculo-plastic surgeon. And then Dr. Don Cohen (ph) who's an oral surgeon. Each of us will play an important role in restoring Carolyn's face to its normal appearance.

KING: It's going to take over a year?

ALFORD: Well over a year, I would anticipate.

KING: You nervous, Carolyn?


KING: Why not?

THOMAS: I don't know, I'm just not nervous.

KING: How would you describe her as a patient, doctor?

ALFORD: She has an amazing degree of strength, intestinal fortitude. And she really wants to proceed and move ahead and I think the most important thing is her courage to be an example to other women, to leave these relationships that can result in the devastating injuries she's received.

KING: Amazing. What was it like the first time you saw her, for your?

ALFORD: For me? Well, you know, Larry, it's hard to describe because I have seen these sorts of defects before but...

KING: But not like this.

ALFORD: Similar, but not the same. It's still shocking. As a physician, we are trained not to be shocked and to immediately go into doctor mode. And it's sort of after the patient leaves you begin to think about what they've been through. And it's just a challenge that we can face and correct.

KING: And what is the biggest part of the challenge in Carolyn's case?

ALFORD: In Carolyn's case there is so much bone loss and soft tissue loss that at first our goal is to restore bone and soft tissue in volumes or amount of tissue that we can then sculpt to recreate a face. And there are limited areas of body where we can take that amount of tissue and successfully transfer to rebuild the upper jaw as well as the mid-face.

KING: Can you use catheters -- can you use -- not catheters -- can you use dead bodies?

ALFORD: No. KING: Cadavers. Why'd I say catheters?

ALFORD: No, we cannot use cadavers. We use free tissue transfer and that would be taking skin, muscle, bone from elsewhere in the body. In her situation it will probably be from her back along the shoulder blade and the latissimus muscle or the muscle on the side of her back. And then transferring that along the single artery and vein and then bringing them up to the face, and then RealNetworks or sewing the artery and vein back to the blood vessels in the neck so that that tissue will receive blood supply and it can live in its new position.

KING: She gets a new nose?

ALFORD: She will eventually get a new nose. That will not be a part of the first surgery, though.

KING: What about her eye?

ALFORD: We will -- Dr. Soparker, our ocular plastic surgeon, is going to help us create, hopefully, an eye socket that will be able to carry an artificial or glass eye.

KING: Is it true that at the first stages of this she might look worse?

ALFORD: There is no doubt that she will have soft tissue covering that will mask the open sinus cavity, but she may in fact look worse initially.

KING: Is there a big fear of infection?

ALFORD: Well, whenever we are doing major surgery like this we are always afraid of infection or any other type of complication. We free tissue transfer, the thing that we worry the most about is a blood clot in the artery and veins that would not allow the tissue to heal.

KING: Is she going to have a lot of after-pain?

ALFORD: Thankfully, this surgery doesn't involve a lot of pain. There -- if we do use the shoulder blade and muscles from her shoulder and side of her back, she'll need to have some rehab to regain the normal range of motion and strength in her upper arm.

KING: What is your ten foot test?

ALFORD: Well, our goal for patients who have received major trauma like this is that they will be able to go out in public and not feel like they are disfigured. People 10 feet away will not be able to see that they are disfigured. They will look normal. Now, on close inspection, they will know that she has had some major surgery and something is different about her face. But the goal is to be out in public and not feel self-conscious about their appearance, not have strangers stare at them or gawk.

KING: So, she -- she'll -- will she ever leave, what for want of a better term, a normal life?

ALFORD: Larry, I think there is a very, very good potential for her to have a very normal life, to return to work, to eat and drink by mouth, to speak much more clearly, articulate clearly and assume a normal role in whatever society has for her. And whatever she has for herself.

KING: Will she chew food?

ALFORD: We hope that we will be able to restore dental implants that will allow her to wear a denture in the upper jaw so that she will be able to chew food.

KING: We will be right back with more of Carolyn Thomas and Dr. Gene Alford on this incredible story. Don't go away.


KING: We're back. Carolyn, you say you're not really worried or nervous about all of this?


KING: How do you explain that? You just heard him describe all the things you're going to have to do ...

THOMAS: My faith in God. I owe everything to God and I just have my faith in Him and I am just ready. My body is his temple.

KING: Dr. Alford, does that help when a patient feels that way? Does the patient's attitude help?

ALFORD: Larry, attitude is everything. When we deal with our cancer patients that are undergoing reconstructive surgery, those who have what we call a winning attitude that say, "I can beat this, I can win," are the ones who do the best because it's not -- yeah there is a lot of work the doctors do but once we finish our surgery it is up to the patient to rehabilitate and make the best of the tissue we have transferred so that they can then resume a normal life.

KING: Is she going to need work all of her life? Like touch-up work or eventually come in for checkups?

ALFORD: Well, it's possible. The aging process will continue and these tissues that we transfer are going to age differently. So it's possible that surgery may be necessary in the future, but certainly nothing as extensive as we proposed for her first surgery.

KING: How old are you, Carolyn?

THOMAS: I'm 34.

KING: Do you want to have children some day?


KING: Is that high on your list?


KING: Do you want to get married some day?


KING: What do you hope happens to Terrence? He could face the death penalty in Texas, couldn't he? Or he's not going to be charged with death penalty?

THOMAS: No sir. I don't think so.

KING: He could do life in prison, for killing your mother.

THOMAS: Yes. Yes.

KING: Do you think he should do life?


KING: What do you make of her, doctor?

ALFORD: She has amazing desire to succeed, to make the best of herself. And I think that as she said earlier, this is a turning point in her life and I think she has to make the best of a bad situation and be an example for women all across the United States.

KING: Are you confident about this, doctor, that this is all going to go well?

ALFORD: I'm always -- You have to be confident to do the things that we do. And I have assembled a team of good friends and great doctors. And I have the help of the Methodist Hospital who is donating all the hospital services free for her surgeries. And together -- you choose the right group of people with the right attitude and the work ethic and I think we can make this work quite well.

KING: And the first thing you have to take on is what?

ALFORD: Well, the first thing we have to take on is restoring enough volume of soft tissue and bone that we can later sculpt to create a face.

KING: You are sculptors, then. You're artists.

ALFORD: In a manner of speaking, yes.

KING: Do you relive that day a lot, Carolyn?

THOMAS: Yes, I do.

KING: You think about it a lot.

THOMAS: Yes, I do. KING: Even though you don't remember the gun shooting into you. You don't remember, you couldn't hear the sound of it or...

THOMAS: No, sir.

KING: Just your mother ...


KING: The fact that it was this horrific, does that complicate things for you, Dr. Alford, the circumstances?

ALFORD: Well, many people will be scarred mentally by this sort of a process and it makes there recovery very difficult. I don't think that Carolyn has sustained that sort of mental injury that would make a recovery difficult.

The trauma caused by the gunshot wound does -- fortunately, did not enter into her neck where it would cause some scar tissue on the blood vessels that we need to use. But clearly the upper jaw is one of the more difficult structures to rebuild because it is a three dimensional shape, so we have got to basically create a box or a triangle out of a flat piece of bone, then create a nasal cavity and then skin for a cheek and a nose. And that is a fairly complex, three-dimensional reconstruction.

KING: This sounds like an enormous challenge.

ALFORD: It's a lot of work, but it's one of the challenges we as physicians we accept and we'll do the very best.

KING: And you, again, Carolyn, you are confident.

THOMAS: Yes, I am.

KING: Your faith holds you in this, right?

THOMAS: Yes, it does.

KING: Have you done a lot of gunshot wounds, Gene?

ALFORD: We have seen several gunshot wounds. I wouldn't say it's a large number, 5 or 6. They can be very, very challenging.

KING: Because they leave holes, right?

ALFORD: Well, the blast effect of a high-powered rifle or pistol causes damage well beyond just where the bullet travels. And so that's where we see some of our very most extensive injuries. Most of my reconstructive experience is with cancer patients who have lost a jaw, an upper jaw or lower jaw, a tongue for cancer treatment. And they then undergo reconstruction of those important functional aspects of their face.

It's the same principles that we use in cancer reconstructive surgery for trauma surgery. It's just a little bit different application.

KING: Do you also deal with the psychological?

ALFORD: Larry, we have to deal with the psychological aspects in all of our patients. And one has to be cognizant of their surroundings, their backgrounds, what brought them to see you as a physician and how they deal with the aftercare.

KING: But Carolyn, do you have -- you have got to go through a lot. You have got to go through surgeries, you have to go through a trial. We're all with you.

THOMAS: Thank you.

KING: And thank you for coming.

THOMAS: Thank you.

KING: And Dr. Alford, the best of luck. And we'll stay close and see how progress goes. And what we hope to do is have you and Carolyn back at these cameras without a mask, without a bandage.

ALFORD: I look forward to that, Larry.

KING: Me too.

Carolyn Thomas and Dr. Gene Alford.

And we'll be back with more, don't go away.


KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE in our remaining segment Bill Johnston. He is in Dallas. He is the court-appointed attorney for Terrence Dewayne Kelly, the man accused of killing Carolyn Thomas' mother and then shooting Carolyn in the face. How did you get this case?

BILL JOHNSTON, ATTORNEY FOR CAROLYN THOMAS' EX-BOYFRIEND: It happens pretty much on a rotational basis. Most of the attorneys in the Waco area that practice criminal defense law are on the court appointment list and it just comes up really by rotation.

KING: And the court pays you?

JOHNSTON: Pays us for the time we spend on the case.

KING: And every criminal lawyer does this, right, throughout their career.

JOHNSTON: They should. Most do.

KING: I don't imagine this is a case you look forward to.

JOHNSTON: Not at all.

KING: How are you going to try to deal with this?

JOHNSTON: I think in a deal like this you simply trust the system and let it take its course and you trust it to get to the truth.

And I heard everyone's comments earlier. You know, this isn't really a case where someone wonders who did it. He did it. He shot her. And he shot her mother. The question is was he in control of his faculties at the time. I think that's really going to be the issue.

He had some pretty bizarre behavior. And the jury needs to hear that and just decide what to do.

KING: Like being nude out in the street after doing it, right?

JOHNSTON: Right. Well, he also, I think, discharged the gun in his mother's face and got in a fight with his brother, it was pretty bizarre.

KING: Are you pleading a mental condition?

JOHNSTON: He wants to. And we have given notice of an insanity defense. And that allows him to put on evidence in that regard. That's where we are.

KING: Have you done that kind of defense?

JOHNSTON: I've been involved in the prosecution of cases where insanity has been alleged, but not in the defense. Competency, usually, but not insanity.

KING: Is that the toughest kind of case for a jury?

JOHNSTON: Well, it's tough. Mostly a case is tough when the facts are hard to hear and difficult to deal with. And this is it. I cannot imagine a situation where more heart wrenching testimony will be heard.

KING: Now you certainly can't come down tough on Carolyn.

JOHNSTON: Of course not.

KING: What'd she do?

JOHNSTON: Not just because it would be a bad idea but it wouldn't be right in any sense and she is the victim. That's it.

KING: What do you think of her?

JOHNSTON: She is unbelievable. There have been stories in the papers in Dallas and Waco and of course elsewhere about her and she is very inspiring to everyone.

KING: You don't see any chance, then, of Terrence being free. JOHNSTON: No. I don't think anyone wants him free, certainly in the short term. And the law in Texas changed a few years ago about insanity defenses. And in the event he were adjudged not guilty but insane, or not guilty by reason of insanity, he would be immediately sent to a maximum security mental facility, lockdown facility and he could stay there for the rest of his life.

KING: Why didn't they try the death penalty?

JOHNSTON: I don't know. There are provisions in Texas law, a certain little laundry list of things if there is present you can seek the death penalty. I think the district attorney didn't believe that enough factors were present for it.

KING: Like something erratic in him. Obviously something wrong here, right.

JOHNSTON: I think so. That's part of it.

KING: Have you met with him?

JOHNSTON: Yes, several times.

KING: What's that been like?

JOHNSTON: Not that different than meeting with any defendant in a serious case. You just have to try to talk about what happened and the law, you know factually and the law that applies and let him know what's ahead.

KING: Does he suffer remorse?

JOHNSTON: He seems more bewildered, actually. And I won't go into our conversations, but just the fact -- he seems, particularly at least early on, he was bewildered. I mean, really couldn't figure him out honestly.

KING: What are his feelings toward Carolyn?

JOHNSTON: I don't know. I'm not spending much time on that part of it, because I really need to know that facts that will be presentable in terms of his behavior, who saw him and so forth. But I don't know how he feels right now.

Obviously, there was something going on. Whether it was rational or not, there was something pretty wild going on the day that happened.

KING: Will you have doctors testify?

JOHNSTON: We hope to have doctors. And also there is some current medical issues, he is receiving some psychotropic drugs right now, or some drugs for a couple of conditions. And we'll find out why the jail has decided to give him those drugs. And there is something going on with him, but I'm not sure any of us are at the bottom of it yet. KING: I assume that the jury will be shown pictures of Carolyn.

JOHNSTON: I'm sure they will.

KING: They're not going to have her take off her bandages in court, I'm sure.

JOHNSTON: I'm sure they'll respect her in every way, so I don't think so.

KING: Do you expect this to be a long trial?

JOHNSTON: Probably not. It might take a week. In Texas, particularly in our area, trials don't take a long time. Usually, judges want the facts and not a lot of lawyering and let's get to it and let the jury have it.

KING: Bill, I thank you very much for spending this time with us. Good luck.

JOHNSTON: Sure. Thank you.

KING: It's noble that criminal lawyers do these things gratis. What is it? There's a term for it.

JOHNSTON: Pro bono.

KING: Pro bono.

JOHNSTON: It's almost pro bono. We get a little something, but it's just part of the process and the system works and I bet the jury gets to the truth and ...

KING: That's what we want.

JOHNSTON: You bet.

KING: Bill Johnston, the court-appointed attorney for the accused, Terrence Dewayne Kelly. Carolyn Thomas and her plastic surgeon earlier. I'll be back in a minute or two. Don't go away.


KING: Thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. What a show, extraordinary young lady. Stay tuned now for more news around the clock on your most trusted name in news, CNN.

See you tomorrow night. Good night.


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