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Bruner closer to trial in beating case

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Jury to hear assault charge in beating of Denisse Escareno

By Lisa King

Mark Bruner, charged with the brutal beating of a woman left by the side of the road, was given a new court date Monday for still another status hearing as he nears his jury trial date of March 11.
Shackled and wearing his orange jailhouse-issued jumpsuit, Bruner glowered at onlookers as he entered Shelby County Circuit Court and stood stoically before Judge Charles Hickman as his court appointed attorney, Melanie Lowe-Stratton, and Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Melanie Carroll reviewed the case.
Hickman then scheduled Bruner to appear again at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 4 for what presumably would be his final hearing before a jury is seated in the case.
Bruner, 38, of Taylorsville, was indicted by a Shelby County Grand Jury on charges of first-degree assault and tampering with physical evidence against him in connection with the beating of Denisse Escareno on Nov. 5, 2011.
Bruner was arrested 10 days after Escareno, 24, was found beaten, stabbed and barely alive by passersby on the side of Mount Eden Road about 2 miles south of Interstate 64.
Escareno, 24, was in a coma at the University of Louisville Hospital until Christmas Day 2011, when she opened her eyes. She has remained unresponsive, however, and was taken home to Arizona in February 2012 by her mother, Norma Zapien, who said doctors told her that her daughter never would recover mental awareness.
Bruner has pleaded not guilty to the charge of first-degree assault, a Class B felony, punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison.
Police have said Bruner had picked up Escareno in his truck while she was walking to a cellular-phone store on that Saturday afternoon and that she left the store with him. They haven’t said why he might have beaten her.
Detectives said in court that Escareno was stabbed in the chest and in the hip area with a screwdriver. Her other serious injury was a deep indentation in the area of her right eyebrow, which she could have received by jumping from Bruner’s vehicle.
Bruner remains lodged at the Shelby County Detention Center under a $100,000 bond.