Assaulted special needs teacher dies after 7-year coma

May 31, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---Gail Hendrick died today after spending the last seven and a half years in a coma. Hendrick was a special education teacher who was brutally attacked by one of her own students at Murphey Middle School.

Now the young man convicted in the case may be facing new and more serious charges.

It was a classroom attack that shocked everyone. Why would a teenager in a wheelchair attack his own teacher?

"I knew what type of kid he was," substitute teacher Gregory Williams told News 12. "I was with him one on one many of times and he never showed any type of hostility when I was in the classroom. So it really shocked me."

But one day in November 1999, something snapped inside 14-year-old David Drayton. He attacked 52-year-old Gail Hendrick as she was preparing the bathroom for him. He knocked her down, beat her head against the floor, then stabbed her dozens of times with scissors.

"We were able to speak very briefly to her prior to going into surgery, and she has identified her attacker as a 14-year-old student," Ronnie Strength, now the Richmond County Sheriff, said at the time.

It was the last time Hendrick would speak to anyone.

Because of Drayton's age, he was tried and sentenced as a juvenile to five years in prison.

"It's definitely very light and not justified for the suffering the family is going through, but evidently the law statues that," said her friend David Russell.

Five years in jail for the student; seven and a half years in a coma for the teacher, before she slipped away from a life she once loved.

At the time of the trial, prosecutors said Drayton wanted to sexually assault Hendrick and then kill her.

News 12 has learned the body has been sent to the state crime lab for autopsy, and sources say that could lay the legal groundwork for Drayton to face additional charges in the case.

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