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Mom of Woman Allegedly Bludgeoned with Hammer by Fiancé’s Brother Speaks Out

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Amanda Zelko
Go Fund Me

An Illinois woman who survived an alleged March hammer attack, strangulation, rape and arson attempt on her house by her fiancé’s brother is “going through hell” as she fights to reclaim her health, her mother says.

“Amanda almost died,” Linda Zelko, 65, tells PEOPLE. “This whole ordeal has been really tough. But she’s still fighting and she’s still smiling. She has an amazing spirit. But she has been going through hell.”

Since the alleged March 25 attack, Amanda Zelko, 32, has been in and out of the ICU five times, has suffered cardiac arrest twice and has battled pneumonia, Linda says. At one point, she was in a medically-induced coma.

“Getting a call at 3:15 in the morning from the hospital to let you know what your daughter went into cardiac arrest and is in critical condition is terrifying,” she says. “No mother wants to go through that.”

Amanda, who had a police officer guarding her hospital room at one point, finally came home Wednesday night. She is undergoing therapy to learn again how to talk, walk and perform everyday tasks again because of her head injury, Linda says. After “some healing,” Amanda will return to the hospital for another surgery, Linda says.

“The whole thing has been a nightmare,” says Linda. “She didn’t ask for this and neither did we. It’s been a hardship for the whole family. We are all in hell.”

While Amanda, a school crossing guard, struggles to regain her health, her alleged attacker, Timothy Gregory, 36, remains in the Will County Adult Detention Center in Illinois, where he is being held in lieu of a $2 million bond.

He was arrested on March 25 and has been charged with 15 counts, including two counts of attempted first-degree murder, four counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault and residential arson, according to court records.

He entered a plea of not guilty at his April 21 arraignment in Will County Circuit Court, according to the clerk’s office.

He is scheduled to return to court on May 17 for a pretrial hearing.

His lawyer did not respond to PEOPLE’s requests for comment.

Timothy Gregory
Will County Sheriff Department

‘He Just Snapped’

On March 25, Amanda was getting ready for a get together with friends at the home she shares with her fiancé in Joliet, when his brother showed up while she was home alone, says Linda.

“Amanda was cooking,” says Linda. “She said she and Timothy were talking and she was putting a DVD in the player when he hit her.”

“He just kind of snapped,” she adds, adding that he allegedly told her to “go to sleep” before strangling her. He also raped her, she says.

(Linda’s allegations mirror those in the police report, which was obtained by PEOPLE, though Linda’s goes into more detail.)

Amanda can’t remember everything that happened, Linda says. But during the alleged struggle, she says her daughter somehow staggered into the bathroom and shut the door. “While she was in there, he set the door on fire,” Linda alleges. “He was fanning smoke under the door.”

Amanda tried to escape, but Gregory repeatedly pushed her back down, Linda alleges, until she was able to leave the house.

According to Linda, Amanda yelled for her dog so it could escape with her before she ran out of the house and collapsed in her neighbor’s yard.

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At that point, good Samaritans came to her aid: A neighborhood teen called 911, and passing motorist Ryan Flannery stopped to help Amanda, grabbing a welding hammer and telling Gregory to stay back when he emerged from Amanda’s burning house.

Officers who arrived on the scene saw Gregory standing in the driveway with blood on his hands and jeans according to police. A hammer and bottle of lighter fluid were recovered at the scene, police say.

It is still unclear why Gregory allegedly attacked his brother’s fiancé.

“I think he was so jealous of his brother because they have such a nice home and such a nice life and took it out on her,” says Linda. “But we just don’t know.”

High Financial Cost to Family

While Amanda has been fighting for her life, her mother says she has been battling with her HMO insurance plan. “This ties in with everything going on with insurance in this country right now,” she says.

Doctors fought for Amanda to be accepted into an out-of-network hospital to save her life, says Linda. “But during that time when we didn’t know if the hospital would take us, it was terrifying. The hospital we were at couldn’t do anything more for her. We said, ‘What do we do? Where can we go?’ You can’t just put this on a credit card.”

The hospital did take her daughter and the HMO paid its share. But if she didn’t go to that other, more technologically-advanced hospital, Linda says, “The doctor said she could have died.”

Still, her daughter faces numerous bills for the care she has received. “It’s going to be tough,” she says.

Linda thanked the doctors, nurses, therapists, friends and family who have shown her and her daughter “so much support” over the last two months.

Despite everything her daughter has been through, she is still in good spirits. “She can’t wait to get her life back,” she says. “We just keep praying.”

Friends and family set up a GoFundMe page for Amanda.