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Man's life-changing injury remains a mystery

5:21 PM, Dec 27, 2013   |    comments
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THORNTON - Little has been said about a man who was found nearly lifeless a year-and-a-half ago on a busy Thornton street. Police no longer think what happened was a crime, but the mystery remains.

Paul Fahnestock had been drinking that night. There is no doubt about that. But what happened to him shortly after leaving a Thornton bar near Huron Street and West 91st Avenue remains a mystery to many people - including his parents.

Somehow, he ended up in a busy street with a massive head injury which kept him in a coma for six months.

Yet, there were no substantial cuts to his head.

"The skin was never open. The skin was always intact," his mother Kathy Harper recently told 9NEWS. "Other than the inside of his skull being fractured, he was perfect."

Thornton Police no longer consider the case from July 2012 open, and no one has ever been accused of a crime in the case. Part of the problem, as far as Paul's parents are concerned, is the investigators' theories kept changing.

"They originally told us Paul was struck by a car," Harper said. "Later that evening, police came and said he was probably not hit by a car. They were investigating an attempted homicide."

The car theory remains the most accepted one now within the Thornton Police Department, even though the car believed to be responsible was inspected.

Thornton Police reports obtained by 9NEWS say a driver stopped that night after she thought she had hit something. The driver, contacted by 9NEWS as part of this story, did not seem convinced she hit a person that night and remained open to the possibility she might have hit one of Paul's flip flops.

Because she was never charged, 9NEWS has decided not to name her. Her car, according to the police report, "had no indication that the vehicle ran over the victim."

What is certain, however, is Paul's recovery continues to defy his original prognosis. In 2012, Harper said "some of the doctors said there is no one in there. Obviously they were wrong."

Despite the fact she was told her son might never speak again, Paul is fully capable of having a conversation with her and his step-father Rob Wright.

The one thing they can't talk about, however, is that night.

"Paul asks us now what happened, and we can't tell him. And he can't tell us, so most likely it will remain a mystery," Harper said.

9NEWS photojournalist Michael Driver spent months documenting Paul's journey.


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