West Virginia Woman Wakes from 2-Year Coma to Name Brother as Attacker: 'As Rare as It Gets'

Authorities said Wanda Palmer had been "attacked, hacked, and left for dead" in the June 2020 assault

A West Virginia woman who spent the last two years hospitalized in a coma after an attack recently awoke to name her assailant: her brother.

Last Friday, the Jackson County Sheriff's Office of West Virginia posted a statement to Facebook revealing that Wanda Palmer's brother Daniel Palmer was charged with attempted murder and malicious wounding following the June 2020 assault, which left his sister "attacked, hacked, and left for dead."

In a piece published Monday, Jackson County Sheriff Ross Mellinger told CNN his office received a call from 51-year-old Wanda's care facility "a couple of weeks ago," stating she was finally able to speak with law enforcement. Two years ago, Palmer was found in an "upright position" on her couch at her home near Cottageville, West Virginia.

Mellinger told the outlet and the West Virginia Metro News that the woman's wounds were so severe, police initially thought she was dead.

Law enforcement never found the weapon used in the attack, which was believed to be a hatchet or axe, according to CNN. While Mellinger told the network that a witness told law enforcement they saw Daniel Palmer, 55, on his sister's porch the night before police responded to her home, he added that a lack of eyewitnesses, phone records, and surveillance footage made the case difficult to investigate.

Daniel Palmer, West Virginia Woman Wakes from Two Year Coma to Name Brother as Attacker
Jackson County WV Sheriff's Department/Facebook

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"There was virtually nothing there to move forward on," the sheriff told West Virginia Metro News.

When authorities were finally able to interview Wanda last week, she could only answer "yes-or-no questions," Mellinger told CNN, but she was able to identify her brother as the attacker and provided enough information to lead to Daniel's arrest Friday.

Daniel was "so combative" that his arraignment was held inside the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, according to WHCS8/FOX11, which showed footage of officers dragging the man into a police car. He was hospitalized for evaluation, and then expected to be transported to the South Central Regional Jail, the outlet said.

Wanda Palmer, West Virginia Woman Wakes from Two Year Coma to Name Brother as Attacker
Jackson County WV Sheriff's Department/Facebook

The Jackson County Sheriff's Department did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

Daniel's bond was set at $500,000 following his arraignment, Mellinger told CNN Monday. It was not immediately clear how he pleaded to the two charges, the network said.

Wanda's communication skills had been affected by "severe brain damage" sustained during the June 2020 attack, in which Mellinger said she was "severely bludgeoned about the head," according to the Metro News. On Monday, Mellinger told CNN that while she is awake, she cannot yet "hold full-length conversations."

"From an investigator's standpoint, this is about as rare as it gets," Mellinger told WHCS8/FOX11 last week. "I think it's a true testament to the perseverance and the strength of the victim in itself. That's really what it's all about, is the victim herself, being strong enough to pull through something like this two years later."

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