ELYRIA, Ohio (WJW) -- An Elyria woman, who was left paralyzed from a terrifying attack in a Lorain County Metropark 12 years ago, has passed away after a long illness.
Now authorities must now decide if the man convicted of the crime should be charged with murder.
Northeast Ohioans were shocked and angered by what happened to 43-year-old Shawn Stevens as she walked through the Carlisle Reservation in May 2008.
Stevens encountered a stranger who fired a bullet into her back that severed her spine, and as she laid on the ground, 25-year-old Matthew Plas beat her with a tree limb, sexually assaulted her and tried to rob her.
Stevens pretended to be dead and that's when Matthew Plas placed what he thought was her dead body in the trunk of her car.
Plas was caught after good Samaritans heard Stevens screaming for help, followed the car and notified police.
Stevens was left paralyzed from the waist down, and the bullet that severed her spine was lodged near her heart.
She died last Saturday after a long illness. She was 55 years old.
Dr. Frank Miller, chief deputy in the Lorain County Coroner's Office, says he is trying to determine the exact cause of Shawn Stevens’ death. That in turn will help prosecutors decide if Plas, who is currently serving 33 years in prison for the attack, should now face a murder charge.
"If they die of known complications or something that is directly related to their being injured, their death is still a homicide, even if many years have passed," said Dr. Miller.
Family members say Shawn Stevens has suffered a variety of medical issues over the past 12 years and was in and out of the hospital numerous times.
Those who loved Stevens, including her three children and five grandchildren, are remembering her will to live and her fighting spirit.
"I don't know why he did it, but I hope God gives you everything you have coming,” Steves said during an interview with FOX 8 back in 2008.
Dr. Miller says the coroner’s investigation should be completed in a week, and the findings will then be turned over to the Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office.