NEW RICHMOND - Carrie Hickman will never forget the sight of her daughter lying in a hospital bed.
The victim of a brutal attack by her ex-boyfriend's sister, the then-15-year-old was left with a slashed neck, a bruised and swollen face and defensive injuries sustained while trying to fend off her assailant.
"My first thought was, 'Who would do this to you?'" Hickman said in a Wednesday, Oct. 11 interview with RiverTown Multimedia.
Hickman spoke out publicly for the first time about the attack on her daughter, Halle Hickman, and the girl's recovery since the July 7, 2016, incident.
Halle, who declined to be interviewed, has made a near-full recovery from the incident, though her mother said effects linger that serve as a constant reminder of the ordeal.
"I'll forever regret that I wasn't able to protect her," Carrie said.
Halle was sleeping in her bedroom the morning of the attack when, after riding her bike more than 10 miles, Kali Bookey entered the Hickman home. She woke Halle up by blocking her breathing passages, kicking off an assault that lasted two hours and included Bookey slashing at Halle's throat with shards from a bowl.
Prosecutors said Bookey, 14 at the time, gave Halle an ultimatum during the attack: "Die right now" or "bleed out." Before leaving the Hickman house on her bike, Bookey told a bloodied Halle to "have a nice afterlife," according to court records.
Bookey, found with injuries, concocted a story about an abduction attempt by men at the home where Halle lives. Law enforcement went there and found Halle.
The girl was rushed to Westfields Hospital in New Richmond before being transferred later that day to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, where she underwent hours of plastic surgery. Carrie said the surgeon described to her how he had installed "thousands" of internal and external sutures to her daughter's neck.
"She was in a lot of pain," Carrie recalled, noting that Bookey had stomped on Halle's head upward of 20 times during the assault.
Road to recovery
The ensuing recovery - and court proceedings - have been a process, Carrie said.
For the first week back at home, a "terrified" Halle insisted on sleeping in bed with her.
There, the mother asked her daughter if she thought she was going to die during the incident. Yes, Carrie said her daughter told her.
"For a parent to hear that ... it doesn't get much worse than that," she said.
After about a year of sleeping in the living room, Halle has finally been able to sleep in her own bedroom again, but Carrie said her daughter still needs to sleep with a light on.
Carrie said it doesn't matter that Halle knows her assailant is locked away.
"It still didn't scare her any less," she said.
But while emotional wounds continue to heal, Halle is going about life again as a regular teenager. She participates in NRHS' academic decathlon team, serves as co-president of the school's computer club and is rejoining the school's jazz band.
Meanwhile, college is on the horizon for Halle, with what Carrie said is a possible focus on computer science.
"I finally have my daughter again," she said.
Still, Carrie said there's frustration over the criminal justice process that, years from now, could wipe the incident from Bookey's record.
Bookey is being held in the state's secure Copper Lake School as part of a plea agreement calling for her to remain there until she turns 17. Bookey will be turned over to adult supervision at that point and will enter pleas to two adult assault-related felonies. She'll then be placed on probation for eight years and could have the felonies expunged from her record if she abides terms of the agreement.
Carrie said that after first agreeing to the plea deal, she now regrets signing off on it. She said she doesn't recall expungement being part of the arrangement and now chafes at the prospect of Bookey - who has already seen an attempted homicide charge dismissed - going free one day without a criminal record.
"I don't think that Halle's gotten any justice," Carrie said.
St. Croix County District Attorney Michael Nieskes said the Hickmans were given documentation at the time of the agreement outlining the possibility of expungement.
He said he thinks it's a fair deal, especially if Bookey comes through the process a changed person.
"She should get that opportunity," he said, noting that failure to abide the probation could make the charges stick. "It's not a pardon, it's not an erasure of the matter ... it doesn't mean the consequences of the case outside the criminal justice system don't occur."