Woman’s sister fighting for life after attack

Family, community rally around victim of abuse

October 2, 2013
Colleen Scarola, left, of Burlington, Vt., and her sister, Heather Graham of Canonsburg, are shown during an August vacation to the Outer Banks. Scarola remains in critical condition after her husband, James Scarola, allegedly hit her in the head with a baseball bat Sept. 22 after Colleen filed for divorce.

Justin Graham, of Canonsburg, describes his sister-in-law, Colleen Scarola, as “a wonderful person who is super energetic and has an infectious smile.”

But today Scarola, 36, remains in critical condition at a Vermont hospital after she was struck in the head with an aluminum baseball bat by her estranged husband 11 days ago.

Graham and his wife, Heather Graham, who is Scarola’s older sister, have been by her side since she was attacked by 40-year-old James Scarola in their Burlington home Sept. 22 while their two children, ages 5 and 7, slept.

“Things are improving a little bit at a time,” Graham said Wednesday. “We don’t have a prognosis. There’s no knowing what the future holds, but we’re committed to making sure she gets great treatment and great rehab. Our goal is to give Colleen the best chance to get back to being Colleen and to provide for her children in case she doesn’t.”

Graham described the support the family has received from the Burlington community and Colleen Scarola’s hometown of Coudersport as “phenomenal.”

“They’ve rallied around Colleen. There are so many people who love her,” said Graham.

The Grahams and Colleen Scarola’s parents, David and Betty Bray, organized a fundraising campaign to raise money for her medical expenses and for the care of her children. As of Wednesday night, they had raised nearly $55,000.

Colleen Scarola lived in Pittsburgh before the couple moved to Washington, D.C., and then to Vermont after 9/11.

A consultant for a green energy company, Colleen Scarola filed for divorce in July, Graham said, but the couple still lived in the same house.

“She generates these huge groups of friends wherever she goes. Everybody loves to be around her,” said Graham. “Seeing her with her two young children is something to watch. She’s loving and nurtures them and encourages them to do their thing.”

Colleen Scarola and her children vacationed with the Grahams, their two children, and Colleen’s and Heather’s parents at the Outer Banks in August.

James Scarola, who is a self-published author of horror and suspense stories, pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder and aggravated domestic assault, and is being held without bail.

Her parents were visiting with the Grahams in Canonsburg when Colleen’s father received a telephone call from the Burlington Police Department early that Sunday morning.

“We were shocked,” said Graham, who said her parents drove immediately to Burlington to care for their grandchildren and stay with their daughter, who is on a ventilator and suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Heather Graham, a pharmacist, plans to stay indefinitely with her sister, with whom she is very close and talks to several times a week, while Justin Graham will return home soon to stay with their children, who are being cared for by his parents.

“We’re not out of the woods by any means,” said Graham, “but we’re hoping for the best.”

Anyone wishing to donate to the Colleen Scarola fund can access the YouCaring website at http://bit.ly/ScarolaFund. Donations can also be mailed to David Bray, c/o Colleen Scarola, 30 Blodgett St., Unit 1, Burlington, VT 05401. Checks may be made out to Colleen Scarola.

Karen Mansfield is an award-winning journalist and mom of five who has been a staff writer for the Observer-Reporter since 1988. She enjoys reading, the Pittsburgh Steelers, a good glass of wine and nice people.

View More from this Author



blog comments powered by Disqus