Like many other teen-age girls, Destiny Lynn Morris adores the pop heartthrobs, New Kids on the Block. She loves to dance and listen to their music.
Destiny still listens to their music, but the 16-year-old Hagerstown girl isn't dancing or doing many of the things she used to. Sometimes, she cannot even remember her age or her middle name.
"At times, she thinks she's 15 and can't remember her middle name," said Teresa Heavens, a spokeswoman for the Alfred I. DuPont Institute, a rehabilitation center in Wilmington, Del. "She's still not aware."
Destiny was left comatose for six weeks on May 27, when, according to police, a group of teen-age boys threw 5- to 15-pound rocks at her and other commuters on the Capital Beltway near Oxon Hill. She was headed home in a pickup truck with friends from a trip to Ocean City when a rock hurled at the vehicle damaged her skull, police said. Doctors thought she wouldn't live.
Three teen-agers accused of throwing the rocks, all 18, face nearly 100 charges, plus seven counts of assault with intent to murder, in Price George's County. If convicted, each faces up to 30 years in prison.
Destiny took the stand for several minutes yesterday on the opening day of the trial of one of the defendants -- John Lavon Burgess, 18, of Forest Heights -- and testified that she had no memory of the incident and could not remember the beach vacation she took with her best friend the day of the attack.
Her body trembled as two bailiffs helped her from a wheelchair into the witness stand. Destiny stared at the floor and did not look at the defendant, who kept his eyes trained ahead.
The prosecutor said he called Destiny as a witness because she expressed a wish to testify and because he wanted to show the judge and the defendant the seriousness of the injuries.
Since being admitted to the Delaware facility July 13, Destiny has received eight hours a day of physical, occupational and speech therapy to help her recover.
In four months at the Delaware center, Destiny has progressed from a level 2 to a level 6 on a scale that rates cognitive functioning, Heavens said. One means the patient is comatose; 10 means the patient is fully conscious.
Destiny, who was to have begun the 11th grade in September, is reading at a fifth-grade level. Before the accident, she was a talented sketch artist and author of short stories.
Heavens said Destiny typifies the brain-damaged patient suffering from post-traumatic amnesia, meaning she cannot remember the accident or events two weeks prior.
"She only reiterates what they told her," Heavens said. "She says she was hit in the head with a rock."
Each day Destiny stays at the center costs $1,000, which is covered by her mother's medical insurance, Heavens said.
Nurses help dress and wash Destiny because she has trouble doing it herself, Heavens said. Destiny often uses a wheelchair, too.
Doctors think she might be released sometime in January, Heavens said.