Family of USC student struck by stray bullet urging attempted mu - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Family of paralyzed USC student struck by stray bullet urging attempted murder charge

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Martha Childress Martha Childress
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

The family of a University of South Carolina student who was struck by a stray bullet in Five Points over the weekend is urging prosecutors to consider more serious charges for the man accused of pulling the trigger early Sunday morning.

As Martha Childress continues her recovery in a Columbia hospital, her family believes 21-year-old Michael Juan Smith should be charged with attempted murder. He's currently being held without bond on assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime, and possession of a stolen pistol.

According to a family spokesperson, the stray bullet from a .40 caliber handgun pierced the 18-year-old's lung, kidney, liver and lodged in her spine, severing her spinal column. She is paralyzed.

Her uncle, Jim Carpenter, said doctors told the family after the surgery, "it was touch and go," and they, "could have easily lost her." 

Carpenter and the family credit the quick actions of paramedics and emergency room doctors for saving the freshman's life.

"Martha is a fighter, she doesn't want to be thought of as a victim," said Carpenter.

According to Carpenter, Childress was in Five Points after an exciting day of pledging the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority and enjoying a visit from her lifelong friend, who currently attends Clemson University.

Carpenter says the girls had gone to Five Points to a Pita bread restaurant. Family members are confident they hadn't been drinking. Childress then took her mother's advice and was waiting for a taxi instead of walking home. That's when she was hit by a bullet fired by Smith, police said.

According to officers, Smith fired at two unknown men he was arguing with. The bullet instead went into a crowd of people standing near the Five Points fountain.

According to Carpenter, Childress told friends immediately after the shooting that she could not feel her legs.

She was rushed to an area hospital in critical condition.

Carpenter says Childress was recently moved to a step-down unit, which is limited to visitors.  She's seen her mother and her stepsister, who is a physician in Philadelphia who flew to Columbia when she heard what happened. Childress also asked to see her brother.

She's been able to communicate with friends and family through social media.

She posted a message on Twitter to show her appreciation for the support the community has offered. "Thanks to everyone who's kept me in their constant thoughts and prayers through this difficult time. The support means so much to me."

Childress graduated from J. L. Mann High School in Greenville in the spring. She's an international business major at USC.

Family friends are working to set up a 501 C-3 to help with Martha's recovery at BB&T Bank, which is where her father works. We'll share that information when we receive it.

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