Drug Deal Leads to Attack, New Life for Victim
Stabbed 27 times at age 10, a girl finds "a better life" and a new family.
Jan. 9, 2008— -- Brittney Bergeron Himel survived one of the most vicious crimes the Las Vegas community had ever seen.
"The first thing I thought was, oh my God, my legs are cut off, I couldn't feel them," Brittney, now 16, said of the attack.
In 2003, Brittney was living with her mother and half-sister when a dispute over drugs resulted in a violent attack. The 10-year-old was left without a family and paralyzed from the waist down.
"A lot of people have come up to me and say, you know, do you miss walking? And I say, you know, actually, I don't," she said. "Overall, I think I like being in a wheelchair better because I have a better life. Before I didn't have such a great life."
As the daughter of parents struggling with drugs and alcohol, Brittney's early childhood was less than stable. She was tossed back and forth from one parent to the other in a nasty four-year custody battle that led to harassment charges and restraining orders. Her mother, Tamara Bergeron, usually unemployed and often on drugs and had been busted for methamphetamines while her father, Kevin Bergeron, had spent time in jail for driving under the influence.
When Brittney was 10, Tamara and her new boyfriend, Robert Schmidt, packed up their trailer and drove Brittney and 3-year-old Kristyanna Cowan to Mesquite, a small gambling town 80 miles north of Las Vegas.
Their new home was an RV park on the grounds of the CasaBlanca hotel-casino. While the couple gambled at the casino -- spending $18,000 in two months, according to police -- usually high on methamphetamines, Brittney was left to take care of Kristyanna, or "Kissy."
"I fed her. I made sure she got to bed. I made sure she had clean clothes," said Brittney.
In January 2003, Brittney and Kristyanna were left alone in the trailer while Bergeron and Schmidt gambled at the casino. The young girls watched TV and slowly fell asleep. Shortly after 1 a.m., there was a knock at the door.
This is where 19-year-old Beau Maestas and his 16-year-old sister, Monique, who both came from another family broken by drugs, enter the picture.
Earlier that night, after drinking and doing drugs at a party, they had purchased $125 worth of what they thought was methamphetamines from Brittney's mother and boyfriend. Maestas later testified that he was ripped off, claiming he was sold table salt.
"I went to the lady and said, 'Look, this is salt. I'd like my money back.'" he told police. "And I was like, 'You want this to get ugly?'"
After a brief confrontation between the Maestas' and Schmidt, the teenagers were asked to leave the casino because they were underage. Furious, they plotted their revenge.
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