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HARRISBURG, Pa. – A middle school teacher who was severely injured when a rock was dropped from a highway overpass onto her vehicle three months ago has recovered enough to head home to Ohio.
Sharon Budd, her family members and members of the medical staff who have treated her were expected to meet with reporters Tuesday at a rehabilitation facility in central Pennsylvania. She plans to return home Wednesday.
Budd, 52, was the front-seat passenger, driving through Pennsylvania the night of July 10 with her husband and college student daughter, when the 4.6-pound rock crashed through the front window and struck her head.
Her skull was crushed, she lost her right eye, suffered brain damage and has endured five surgical procedures to repair the damage.
Her husband Randy said Tuesday that her sense of humor has returned, she is able to walk and she has regained limited vision in her left eye. Her long-term prognosis remains uncertain.
"They told us to look at this a year from now to give a measurement of how Sharon's going to be, who is Sharon going to be," Randy Budd said.
But there are encouraging signs so far, he said: "She could have come back bitter, violent, aggressive, but she came back as kind of her sweet self."
Sharon Budd plans to ring a ceremonial victory bell Tuesday at Geisinger HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital, and then make the five-hour drive west to Uniontown, Ohio. Her husband said friends and neighbors will be there to greet her.
"This word gets thrown around a lot, but I really believe the angels came down to help her," he said.
She can perform simple math and knows who the president is and that it's 2014, Randy Budd said. But she can be confused about how many children she has or how she got hurt, he said.
"Some basics, she doesn't have," Randy Budd said. "That's to be expected. The brain has to reconnect itself."
Four young men face charges in the attack. One of them testified at a preliminary hearing in August that they set out to do damage that day, starting with shoplifting and driving through a corn field and ending up on the Interstate 80 overpass shortly before midnight.
Keefer McGee, 18, testified under a deal with prosecutors that they laughed as they drove away from the scene after hearing the noise of the rock hitting the Budd family's vehicle. One of the four told police that the oblong-shaped rock was dropped by Dylan Lahr, 17.
The lawyer for the only defendant who did not waive his preliminary hearing, Brett Lahr, 19, said this week he was glad to hear Sharon Budd was being released but maintains criminal charges should not have been filed against him.
"Just because you're riding along with people who do some stuff, and even alleged to have laughed if it happened, which we dispute, does not mean you should be even tried for a crime," said the defense attorney, Brian Manchester. "You have to have some active involvement."