June 15, 2018 10:12 AM

For years, all Brittani Marcell knew was pain.

In September 2008, when she was a 17-year-old high school senior in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Marcell was nearly beaten to death in her home, according to the Albuquerque Journal. The attack was so vicious it left her blind in one eye and deaf in one ear.

She underwent more than a dozen surgeries in order to recover and had to re-learn how to walk and talk, the Journal reported earlier this year.

Though Marcell’s mother inadvertently walked in during part of the attack, calling 911, the assailant fled, according to the paper. Marcell had no memory of what happened to her, and authorities had few fruitful avenues to pursue.

And then, in 2016, a change. First Marcell recalled a man with whom she was acquainted while working at the mall. Then, according to the Journal, a name came to her: Justin Hansen.

Her revelations reportedly led to DNA testing that showed a drop of Hansen’s blood was at the scene of Marcell’s assault. Prosecutors said a witness reportedly further confirmed having seen Marcell speak with Hansen at the mall where she worked. He was indicted in July.

Brittani Marcell
ABC

Local TV station KOB reported that in April — nearly a decade after Marcell was struck again and again by a shovel — Hansen pleaded no contest to two charges in the assault: first-degree attempted murder and aggravated burglary.

His change came days before he was set to stand trial and not long after an appeals court declined to weigh in on whether his indictment violated the statute of limitations, the Journal reported.

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Hansen faces up to 18 years in prison at his July sentencing, according to prosecutors.

Still, he maintains his innocence.

The case’s progression is traced on Friday night’s episode of ABC’s 20/20, which is exclusively previewed above, in a clip that explains how Marcell first decided to undergo hypnotherapy to aid law enforcement.

Justin Hansen (right)
ABC

The episode features interviews with Marcell and her mother as well as investigators in the case and Hansen himself.

ABC says that Hansen, who does not have a previous criminal history, argues additional testing on the weapons at the scene in 2008 — now impossible due to a 2015 error resulting in their destruction — would have exonerated him.

But Marcell is certain of his guilt, and her family agrees.

“We knew in our hearts he did this when this came about and Brittani remembered his name, but he took responsibility today and that goes a long way, to say that ‘I did this,’ ” her sister Alicia Marcell told the Journal in April. “I think that’s where we start to have some closure and healing.”

20/20 airs Friday (10 p.m. ET) on ABC.

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