In 1986, Mary Burgess was shot by her husband, but she finally succumbed to her injuries on Jan. 1, 2016, at the age of 82, a full 30 years after the bullet lodged in her abdomen.
Lawrence Burgess shot his stepson and wife on July 21, 1986, at their home in south Memphis, Tennessee, after an argument, WMC reports. The bullet, which might have been a ricochet, lodged in her spine -- surgeons had to remove her appendix, uterus, cervix and right ovary, at the time of the shooting. Mary never walked again. Mary’s son, Maurice Cage, survived the attack.
Doctors were unable to remove the bullet and she eventually died from sepsis due to an ulcer and a urinary tract infection, both of which medical examiner Dr. Zachary O'Neill was able to attribute to Mary’s paraplegia. As a result, her death was ruled a homicide, The Commercial Appeal reported.
Lawrence was charged at the time with two counts of assault to commit first-degree murder, for which he took a guilty plea and was sentenced to five years in prison. If he hadn’t died in 2003, he would likely face upgraded murder charges.
"I was mad for a while," said Mary’s daughter, also named Mary Burgess. "But I'm not going to say that it took me a long time to forgive him. We talked and everything. I kind of understood the situation, because the bullet wasn't meant for her. It ricocheted. It's not like he pointed it at her.”
Even veteran prosecutors like Shelby County’s Tom Henderson conceded that the case was “extremely unusual.”
"It is unique," Henderson said. "We've had maybe two or three cases where somebody has died years later, and none of them has been as long as 30 years. Never had one this long.”