MONTPELIER, Vt. – The nephew of a renowned physical therapist and educator from Vermont who recently died from injuries she suffered in a 1996 beating at an Atlanta hotel says he hopes police can find her killer.
Pauline Cerasoli, who was known as Polly, never recovered from the February 1996 choking and beating at the Peachtree Plaza Hotel, her nephew Jeff Martell said. She suffered traumatic brain injuries and died in September at a long-term care facility in New Boston, N.H. She was 71.
Atlanta police were unable to find Cerasoli's attacker, and their cold-case squad is now investigating her death as a homicide.
Martell said Wednesday he was hopeful the attacker could be brought to justice.
"There's a part of me that would like to see the guy get caught, even though it's been 15 years, so he doesn't do it to someone else," said Martell, who lives in Barre, Cerasoli's hometown.
Prudy Markos said Cerasoli was her best friend. Markos, of Ipswich, Mass., said the two met in their first year of college and remained best friends until the day Cerasoli died. She said everybody in the U.S. physical therapy community knew Cerasoli.
"Her life was devoted to physical therapy, full time," Markos said.
Cerasoli, who never married, took a lot of students under her wing, Martell said. The American Physical Therapy Association's Education Section gives a Pauline Cerasoli Lecture every year, the association said.
Cerasoli grew up in Barre and was a daughter of local surgeon Dr. Michael Cerasoli. She earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Connecticut, a master's degree from Boston University and a doctorate from Northeastern University in Boston. In 1988 she became director of physical therapy at the University of Colorado, where she worked until her Feb. 16, 1996, attack.
Cerasoli was in Atlanta for a meeting of the association when she was beaten. She remained in a coma for several weeks after the attack, Martell said. She regained consciousness but never recovered. Over the years she stayed in five long-term care facilities, most recently the facility in New Boston, Martell said.
The New Hampshire medical examiner's office conducted an autopsy after Cerasoli died and determined her death was due to her 1996 injuries. Atlanta police say they classified the case as a homicide after hearing from officials in New Hampshire.
Markos said friends often would discuss the police investigation into who attacked Cerasoli but "never heard anything all these years."
"The fact that they are reopening the case as a murder case makes me very happy," Markos said. "Nothing would make me happier than for them to catch this person."
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