Marked for death, survivor of savage attack continues to ask "why?"

"48 Hours" Live to Tell: Marti Hill beaten and left for dead in her Kansas home by handyman who won't explain reason for attack

Produced by Chris Young Ritzen and Stephen A. McCain

This story previously aired on Feb. 2

Prairie Village, Kansas | Sept. 8, 2010

STEPHANIE SCHEIBLER | MARTI'S CO-WORKER: I think that day will stay with me forever.

JAN SCHUL: MARTI'S CO-WORKER: September 8th 2010, was a normal day at the office. ... Then there was a 10:00 production meeting and Marti wasn't in it.

That was extremely unusual. ... Marti is very dependable and reliable.

Marti is ... a big bunch of dynamite in a little bitty package. She might weigh 97 pounds soaking wet. But she gets stuff done.

STEPHANIE SCHEIBLER : She is a genuine, good hearted, outgoing, fun person. ... She is a hard worker and she is always trying to make everything better.

JAN SCHUL: We work for an apparel company. It's a small manufacturing facility. It's a tight- knit group.

STEPHANIE SCHEIBLER : The meeting was over and I asked, "Where's Marti?" And somebody said, "We don't know." ... I sent her a quick text ... maybe something had come up. No reply to the text. I called her a few times. ... She never phoned me back. That's why I knew that something was wrong because she would not just miss work.

TOM MAI | MARTI'S BOSS: There was a real sense of concern. Tears. What do we do? What should we do?

About 11:30 ... I decided to drive by her house. When I arrived there, her car was sitting in the driveway.

I walked up, rang the doorbell. No answer. Knocked on the door. No answer. So I went back to my car. And my cell phone and I ... called the office and said ... "The house seems eerily empty. I think perhaps you should call the police."

BILL BALDWIN |PRAIRIE VILLAGE POLICE DEPARTMENT: The neighborhood is a very quiet, residential neighborhood. We don't get many calls in that area.

I went up to the front door and I noticed that the door was closed and not locked.

I opened up the door and said, "It's the police department. Marti, are you home?" ... I said that over and over again.

I do notice... what appears to be a woman's purse sitting on a table in the kitchen or dining area ... Seeing the purse there told me that -- you know, I'm married and my wife doesn't go anywhere without her purse -- so at that point I was kinda thinking well maybe she is here somewhere then.

I saw no clues upstairs that would indicate any kind of struggle. ... And then I started walking down the stairs to the basement.

When I got to about two or three steps from the very bottom I noticed that there was a person laying on the floor, kind of in a fetal position ... covered head to toe in blood ... and there was a large amount of blood surrounding this person on the floor.

Marti was breathing. It seemed like it was somewhat labored.

I knelt down next to her ... and I asked her over and over again, "Who did this? Who did this to you Marti? Who did this to you?" ... I wanted to get, I guess what could have been a dying declaration if that was what that was gonna be.

WHO ATTACKED MARTI?

Saint Luke's Hospital | Kansas City, Missouri

DR. HARRY WILKINS III | TRAUMA SURGEON: When I walked in ... they had just wheeled her in. I could not tell if it was a man or a woman, couldn't tell if she was young or old, couldn't tell what race she was.

It just appeared to be a lifeless form with dried blood and this swollen head. ... My first thing was to assess to see, "Had they brought me a live person or not?"

What we found was the major veins, skin, muscle of the left neck had been completely cut through. And the major artery actually had a couple of scrapes on it. So it's literally millimeters away from having been cut through.

For the next hour-and-a-half we just meticulously cleaned and put back together all of those injuries.

I remained still very concerned about her head. ... In addition to the cut ... she had all these bruises and swelling to her face. ... And head injury to me is something I take very seriously. ... Concussions, which is essentially what she had ... can lead to swelling. And they can look fine initially and then die 24 sometimes 72 hours later.

Some of the nurses were starting to get very quiet and tears sort of welling up. And then in the back of my mind, I'm going, "wait a minute. This happened in my neighborhood. Let me get a call into my wife. Let me find out where my kids are."

It starts slowly hitting you in waves, the enormity of what really had happened.

MACKENZIE HILL | MARTI'S DAUGHTER: My grandma picked me up and we went to the hospital. And they took me straight back to the ICU.

I had no idea how serious it was because I wasn't getting a lot of information. I didn't even know what happened.

I saw my mom ... And I just started bawling. I didn't recognize her. Her eyes were swollen shut. ... Her arms, her legs, her hands were the only think that I could recognize.

SHIRLEY ROTH | MARTI'S MOTHER: I don't know how to describe it, other than you just have knots in your stomach and you are in disbelief.

Marti's head was swollen like three times the size of her normal head. It was just unbelievable. You're kinda in shock that this is your daughter laying there.

MACKENZIE HILL: My brother -- I just know my brother was very angry because it's his -- our mom. But no one can do that to HIS mom. Like that just got him really worked up. The both of us. The fact that somebody could just hurt our mom. Like, you can't just try and take our mom away from us.

As a teenager, of course, I had been sassy with my mom. And we got into arguments. Seeing her in that state just made me feel so bad for everything that I had said. Ever. Any little teenager thing. ... I just wish I could take it all back. ... I got really close to her and I said, "I will never be mean to you. Ever again."

DETECTIVE LUKE ROTH | PRAIRIE VILLAGE POLICE DEPT.: When we got to the hospital ... some key things I noticed ... was that her clothes appeared to be intact. Her bra appeared to be intact and there were no signs of sexual assault. ... Every step of the process you're looking for some sort of motive.

At that time, I was advised her mother had arrived at the hospital and I went to speak with her to obtain any information we could to assist us with this investigation.

SHIRLEY ROTH: That was why they were asking me if I could think of anyone who might have done this to Marti.

DET. LUKE ROTH: Marti's mother tells us that she has an ex- husband, by the name of Steve Hill. She advised us that Marti and Steve ... they communicate regularly.

Her mother also told us [Marti] was a workaholic. She very rarely left the house. To her knowledge she wasn't dating anybody. And if she was not working, she was typically at home.

Marti was still unable to communicate with us. We had very limited information as to who she might have been with, who she may have had recent communication with. And naturally your first thought is possibly the ex-husband might be responsible.

MACKENZIE HILL: The detectives ... asked me about my parents. They kept asking like, "Do your parents get along?" I remember being really defensive. ... Like my dad would never do this. And no one that I know would.

DETECTIVE JASON WAKEFIELD | PRAIRIE VILLAGE POLICE DEPT.: We go to Marti's ex husband's house, Steve Hill, to interview him that night.

He was very cooperative ... invited us into the house. He gave us the full account of what he had done that day and told us about his history with Marti and that they had some rough times together. But he loved her and he would never hurt her. ... He wanted to know who did this just as bad as we did.

DET. LUKE ROTH.: And that's where it became very difficult for us. ... We were stuck with the information of Mr. Hill was not a suspect and very limited after that.

MACKENZIE HILL: Me and my dad had a lot of conversations trying to get to the bottom and think of who would have done it. ... Someone had broken into my grandma's house a few days before. ... maybe it was the same person and maybe someone was after our family.

SHIRLEY ROTH: They had bandages over her cuts in her neck so we really couldn't see them. But we could see the blood coming from her eyes. It was just kinda tears with blood dripping down her eyes.

At that point, we still weren't sure what was gonna happen. ... We knew she was fighting to stay alive.

MACKENZIE HILL: I just remember ... I started crying. "All I want to do is talk to my mom." Like the only think I wanted to do was talk to my mom.

BRIAN PENNINGTON

TOM MAI: There was quite a fear among the office - could someone else be a target?

JAN SCHUL: You're looking over your shoulder even at the office and when you're leaving the office and everywhere you go wondering who has done this to Marti. And if you know them.

TOM MAI: The Prairie Village detectives came to the office. ... Obviously they were just trying to get a sense of Marti's routine. ... Just looking for any ideas that perhaps would give them a direction to which to turn.

DET. LUKE ROTH: Marti's mother ... told us that there was a company by the name of B and J construction who had recently done work at her house who she had actually referred to Marti. She told me that the supervisor of that construction company was named Brian, and that he seemed to be a nice guy.

SHIRLEY ROTH | MARTI'S MOTHER: I thought Brian was a hard worker and a family man. ... And he did good work. Actually that is why Marti decided to go ahead and use him because he did some stuccoing inside my house and he did a really good job.

DET. JASON WAKEFIELD: When I initially called Brian, I didn't even know his last name. He called me back and told me that his last name was Pennington.

DET. LUKE ROTH: He was 26 years old, lived in Leeton, Missouri, approximately an hour-and-a-half from the Kansas City metro area. We decided that we wanted to just ask him some basic questions.

Sept. 10, 2010 | Two nights after the attack

DET. JASON WAKEFIELD: We arrived at Brian's house ... a little after 9 o'clock p.m. When we initially pulled up, it was a very dark house. It's kind of secluded.

When we knocked on the door, we were invited in the house. My partner and I followed Brian into the kitchen. He was very polite, cooperative.

Detective: How long did you work at Marti's house?

Brian Pennington: I'd say three or four days.

Detective: What you think when you heard that Marti got attacked?

Brian Pennington: I really didn't know what to think. She's a really, really decent lady.

Detective: Have you heard what happened to her at all?

Brian Pennington: No. ... My mother-in-law was looking on the news channel earlier. And it showed pictures of her house and stuff ... I really didn't know what to think.

DET. JASON WAKEFIELD: During this conversation, I noticed that Brian had several scratches on the left side of his face.

Detective: Where are the scratches from on your face?

Brian Pennington: That big dog sittin' outside.

Detective: What kind of dog you have?

Brian Pennington: Pit bull.

Detective: When did those happen?

Brian Pennington: Yesterday. ... She just jumps all over me. And when I bent down yesterday to unhook the chain, she jumped up and caught me in the side of the face.


DET. JASON WAKEFIELD: When I looked at the scratches, they didn't appear to be consistent with what a dog would do. ... I felt like he was hiding something from me.

I asked him if he had attacked Marti. ... He told me that he had not.

He kept stressing to us that he was having financial difficulties and there was no way he could drive to Kansas City to commit this crime due to the fact that he didn't have enough money for gas.

I talked to Brian's wife Jessica, in the living room of the house. ... I asked her if Brian had been home on the morning of the attack:

Jessica Pennington: He finished that job last month. ... And he's been here with me for two weeks.

Detective: OK, at night

Jessica Pennington: Night and day.

Detective: Night and day, both?

Jessica Pennington: Yeah, he ain't goin nowhere in the night. I can't sleep at night if he's not here.

DET. JASON WAKEFIELD: She said there was no way that he could have done this attack because he had been with her the entire time. I also asked Jessica about the scratches on Brian's face:

Detective: Do you know how he got those?

Jessica Pennington: They're from the dog, I swear.

DET. JASON WAKEFIELD: I did not believe Jessica. ... She seemed like she was very na»ve. She was very young. I think she was 20 years old at the time of this. She had two young children. And I thought she would say anything possible to help protect her husband and to have him around:

Detective: We have no doubt that we're gonna find the person that's responsible for this.

Jessica Pennington: Brian doesn't have the heart for that.

Detective: I hope so.

Jessica Pennington: He doesn't.

Detective: Believe me, I hope you're right.

Jessica Pennington: He doesn't.

Jessica Pennington: I'm just scared ... I've never been in this kind of situation.

Detective: Yeah, if you're telling me the truth, you don't have a thing in the world to worry about.

Jessica Pennington: Besides my kids. I know he did work on that house. ... That's what I'm scared about.

DET. JASON WAKEFIELD: And then, I asked Brian if he happened to have any clothes that had blood on them in his house. He immediately told me he did not. I asked him if I could look through his clothing, his dirty clothing. And he told me that I could.

I saw a hamper in the corner of the bathroom. ... When I started pulling clothes out, I found a pair of jeans near the bottom of the hamper. When I pulled the jeans out, I immediately saw that they were covered in a red stain. Most of the stain was towards the knees and down towards the bottom portion of the pant leg.

Detective: You know what this stuff is on the bottom?

Brian Pennington: Grease, Grease. Something, I don't know.

Detective: Not blood thought, right?

Brian Pennington: No.

Detective: OK.

DET. LUKE ROTH: When I saw the red stains, it was definitely a moment of we might have something.

DET. JASON WAKEFIELD: I tried to remain calm and friendly with Brian and asked him if he would give me consent to take the jeans from his house.

Brian signed a written consent form that I could take jeans, shoes, DNA swabs, and also pictures of the scratches on his face.

DET. LUKE ROTH: I guess the best word, we were surprised that we were getting this sort of cooperation with the recovery of these items.

DET. JASON WAKEFIELD: I think Brian Pennington thought ... we would ... not follow up, we would not do any other investigation, that we would just believe what he said and believe what his wife was telling us.

My partner and I drove directly to the crime lab. I think we got there around 11:00 at night.

DET. LUKE ROTH: Actually within 30 minutes of being at the crime lab ... we were told that the stains on the jeans tested positive for human blood.

DET. JASON WAKEFIELD: We did not know who the blood belonged to, it could have been anybody's blood at that point. And we would have to wait a couple more days to determine who the blood belonged to.

We did not tell anybody about this. ... We were told that Marti ... would be able to talk to us eventually. ... We did not want to interfere with the investigation and have them give Marti ideas. We wanted anything that Marti would say to come directly from Marti and nothing we gave her thoughts or suspicions about.

So, we were kinda in a holding pattern waiting to get Marti's side of the story.

DET. LUKE ROTH: And in fact, on that Saturday morning, the morning after leaving Mr. Pennington's house, we were contacted ... that Marti was talking at the hospital.

MARTI'S RECOVERY

MARTI HILL: I don't remember those first days. ... I don't remember feeling any pain. I do remember ... feeling like I had too much medicine in me. ... I didn't feel good.

I believe that it was the third day when I started speaking. ... Suddenly it all kinda flooded back, what had happened. ... There was no questions. I knew who it was and what he had done.

SHIRLEY ROTH: I remember the day that Marti said her first word. My daughter Monica and I were walking in and ... the doctor said, "She just spoke." ... As soon as we got in there ... we asked her if she could remember who did this. And she said, "Brian."

MARTI HILL: I had gotten up early. ... I heard ... a knock at the door. Looking out the window, I saw that it was Brian Pennington, the man that I had hired to do some work on the house.

I could''t really understand for sure why he would be there ... it was odd that he was there that early, it was odd that he didn't call first.

I went to the door, let him in. And I remember it just being a fairly brief conversation. He mentioned that he remembered something that was in the basement that he thought I should have done.

So we started walking to the basement. I was leading.

 

 

I -- I do remember talking. But I also felt like he was being quiet. Like, you would at least say, "Huh, what? Huh, OK. "I was getting an odd feeling as we were going down the stairs ... and then just two steps -- from the bottom of the stairs he grabbed my throat. ... It was very tight and very strong.

I kept saying, "What are you doing?" ... It was just silence. He never said a word. ... My voice kept getting lower, softer, and suddenly my voice...I couldn't speak ... my voice couldn't come out. ... And I passed out.

DET. JASON WAKEFIELD: We received a call from the crime lab. ... The blood found on the jeans was, in fact, Marti Hill's blood.

DET. LUKE ROTH: We knew we had enough for an arrest warrant at that time.

DET. JASON WAKEFIELD: On Monday, September 13th, five days after the attack, we go to Brian's house in Leeton, Missouri. We find Brian driving down the road.

DET. LUKE ROTH: He was laid back in the front passenger seat. It appeared his wife was driving.

DET. JASON WAKEFIELD: He was taken into custody at that time.

DET. LUKE ROTH: He showed no signs of being upset. He showed no signs of any anger. There was absolutely no emotion.

CAMI GILL | MARTI'S SISTER: When my mom got the call and they told her that they had arrested Brian Pennington she ... almost fell over.

It was extremely emotional for my mom. Because she actually referred Brian to Marti. She had actually worked with Brian for two years prior to that. Knew his wife, knew his kids ... and felt that Brian was a safe person. So hearing that they actually had enough evidence to arrest him made it real that it was really him. And that he really did this. And this was a person that she knew.

DET. LUKE ROTH: I believe that Mr. Pennington is ... an evil person. One of the theories we have in this investigation is not only did Mr. Pennington strangle Marti initially ... it's our belief that he then beat her head into the concrete floor which caused multiple facial fractures. And if that was not enough, he then slit her throat three to four times, leaving her to die in her basement that morning. I believe that Mr. Pennington was surprised when we arrived at his door ... and told him that Marti Hill was still alive. ... I don't believe Mr. Pennington thought that he would be caught.

DR. KIM POECKER | REHAB DOCTOR: We always have a little saying that the trauma surgeons ... save these patients lives. But we have the opportunity to get them back to living their lives.

The first time I met Marti, she had been in the hospital for about a week. ... Her brain was stunned and in shock. ... She could walk, but it wasn't pretty. Her feet were very far apart. She couldn't put her feet together and stand still without falling over. She had some issues with her vision. She had difficulty with her hearing, difficulty with her memory, difficulty with processing things. She would change topics at the speed of light.

CAMI GILL: The attack was very difficult for both Stephen and Mackenzie, Marti's kids. ... Stephen is very protective over his mother. ... He lives in Houston. And he flew up that same evening. ... And he took it very hard. He actually cleaned the blood off of the floor of Marti's house. ... He wouldn't let anybody in the house, he didn't want anybody to see her blood all over the house.

MACKENZIE HILL: I grew up a lot through the whole thing. ... I spent my 16th birthday in the hospital. And I remember her giving me a card. ... And her handwriting on the card was something that really -- like really made it real for me. Her handwriting just didn't look like her handwriting. It was almost like she had to start over. Like, being a kid again and build up to where she is now.

MONICA GILL | MARTI'S SISTER: Marti's daughter Mackenzie played a huge role in Marti's recovery.

I feel that Mackenzie's biggest role was Marti could feel like a mother -- "I have a responsibility. I have things that I need to get done for my daughter."

CAMI GILL: What comes after you start feeling better physically is the unseen trauma ... the emotion of realizing what happened to you. So after she had left the hospital and gone home to my mom's ... it became more about the emotional trauma that had to start healing.

MARTI HILL: At that point ... I was still just -- processing it. ... How someone that seems perfectly fine, perfectly normal could be that, could be that violent?

VANESSA RIEBLI | PROSECUTOR: Brian Pennington had been arrested for attempted first-degree murder.

My goal was to put Mr. Pennington in prison for as long as our legal system would allow.

The most important thing that we had was the DNA evidence on Mr. Pennington's jeans. We also had facial scratches on his cheeks that he advised were from a pit bull.

They were strong evidence for us, but defense attorneys can always find ways to try to cause reasonable doubts.

DET. LUKE ROTH: The frustrating part about this investigation is that we absolutely have no motive that we are aware of.

DET. JASON WAKEFIELD: There was no theft that occurred from Marti's house, she had money laying out, her purse was laying out, he did not take it, there was no sexual assault, there was no history that they had spoken since the work had been conducted at her house in late August.

While preparing to go to court, we did more of a background investigation on Brian.

I checked our computer database and noticed that Mr. Pennington had a prior police record.

DET. LUKE ROTH: I believe he had over 60 contacts with law enforcement officers.

He was involved in several domestic violence incidents where injuries occurred to wives, to girlfriends. ... battering women was nothing new to him.

VANESSA RIEBLI: Jessica Pennington was a key witness to this case. She provided her husband with an alibi at the time of the initial interview by the detectives. She told the detectives that her husband was home during the entire time frame of the attack. That was going to be hard to get around -- in front of a jury.

Preliminary Hearing | May 17, 2011

MONICA GILL: The night before the preliminary hearing, Marti was very nervous about seeing Brian Pennington. ... She was also very nervous about what she was going to say, what the attorneys, what questions they were going to ask.

VANESSA RIEBLI: The pressure was tremendous, because in our opinion, Brian was and is a very dangerous individual. And if we failed at the preliminary hearing, he would be released. He would be free.

I was very concerned about Marti's physical health. When I first met her, she was struggling just to walk and sit down in a chair. And one of my concerns was, even as aggressive of a prosecution that we were gonna have, I didn't want to cause her more emotional harm or physical harm. The other concern was her memory.

We knew that if she could identify Mr. Pennington as her attacker in the courtroom, that we could get a conviction. The problem was, with all of the injuries to her, we didn't know if she would be able to do that.

SHIRLEY ROTH: We were in the courtroom. And they brought Brian in. And they seated him to the far right of our family. ... It was just very emotional and unbelievable. ... It just made you want to cry. ... It was very hard to see him. ... Brian Pennington had no one on his side in the courtroom. Not even his mother came.

CAMI GILL: He always stared straight at the wall and he never looked around until ... Marti walked in the door. The only time he moved his head from straight forward was when she walked in the room and I saw his eyes go like this. Almost like she saw a ghost. I will always remember that. ... I could see it and feel it that he couldn't believe she was walking down that aisle, gonna go up and speak.

VANESSA RIEBLI: When Marti first walked into the courtroom, she was very slow. She was a little bit hunched over. And I was concerned if she was gonna be able to make it through this.

I've always told her just to focus on me. "You and I are gonna have a conversation, block everybody else out." It's gonna be you and me. we can do this.

MARTI HILL: I remember while I was speaking, that I could out of the corner of my eyes, kind of see him glancing at me.

It was still hard to process. Because I'm seeing this person that had come to work for me and I thought he was fine.

VANESSA RIEBLI: He showed no emotion . ... I felt that he was very detached from the situation. And it didn't bother him that he had almost killed a woman. ... The defendants that detach and so no emotion are the ones that frighten us the most.

MARTI HILL: It's still too hard to understand someone that you felt like you knew was capable of something like that.

VANESSA RIEBLI: I held my breath until she identified Brian as the person that attacked her, because ... I was very concerned with the traumatic brain injury, with everything she'd been through, if she was gonna be able to do that. And she did it.

MARTI HILL: I felt that it was important that I got up there and could do what they needed me to do.

VANESSA RIEBLI: I smiled at her. ... I wanted her to know she did a great job.

One of the other keys to the case was ... Jessica Pennington.

I thought that she would be a very hostile witness and would testify on his behalf, say, he was home that entire timeframe. We were able// to get her alone with the detectives and tell her how important it was to tell the truth.

I think the key factor with Jessica was learning how severely beaten Marti was and how close Marti came to dying. And I think Jessica, the human side of her understood that and realized it was more important to tell the truth than to protect Brian.

And Jessica Pennington broke down. And at that time, admitted to us that she had lied and that, in fact, her husband, Mr. Pennington, was not at home with her during the time of the attack.

DET. JASON WAKEFIELD: I also learned from Jessica that Brian had attacked her on numerous occasions, assaulted and threatened her.

VANESSA RIEBLI: In the end, Jessica became one of our best witnesses against Brian. ... At the end of the preliminary hearing, the judge ruled that there was enough evidence to take the case to trial.

It didn't appear that Brian had a lot of fight left when it came to the case. And it was made clear to us through this defense that he wanted to work out a deal. The issue with the deal was, how long would he serve in the Kansas State prison system?

We could go through the jury trial and get 38 years or we could work out a plea and get less than that.

A key factor in the evaluation was Marti. We knew that she still had physical issues, mental issues. And I believe that Marti wanted to work out a deal.

MARTI HILL: There was a day when she called me and said, "It's hard enough for 12 people to decide where to go to lunch, let alone decide how to convict someone."

VANESSA RIEBLI: It took several months, but we finally agreed on 28-and-a-half years. ... Because that was going to end it for Marti. She wouldn't have to testify. And also, I thought it was important to her children for have closure on this too.

CAMI GILL: The sentencing, we expected it to be brief and short and to the point and for him to be convicted and sentenced.

VANESSA RIEBLI: I walked into the sentencing hearing, I looked at Brian Pennington, I looked at the defense counsel and I knew something was wrong.

THE SENTENCING HEARING

Johnson County Courthouse | Dec. 12, 2011

VANESSA REIBLI: At the sentencing hearing ... Brian and his defense counsel were not speaking with one another. Brian looked angry. ... So I knew that there was an issue.

We were told that Brian wanted to withdraw his plea. He wanted to go to trial.

It was my perception that Brian had six weeks since the plea date to think about serving 28 years in prison. Keep in mind, he had not been alive for 28 years. So I don't think he could get his head around the fact that he would serve more time in prison than he had been on this earth.

My initial thought was, I had told Marti it was gonna be over today and that may not happen.

The courtroom was filled with tension. Many of Marti's family members were very upset.

CAMI GILL: Everyone who had traveled from miles and miles and spent a lot of money on plane tickets was like, "Oh, my gosh," you know, "he's gonna change his plea right here."

VANESSA REIBLI: It was decided that we would go in court and that Brian would tell the judge the reasons why he wanted to withdraw his plea. ... Brian simply told him it was the pressure and that it was too much time.

The judge tells him that those are not sufficient reasons to withdraw his plea. ... We then moved onto the victims' statements and their family members.

MACKENZIE HILL: I was almost excited to be able to talk to him.

Mackenzie in court: "I will never understand why you did this to my mom. You put my entire family through something that no family should ever have to go through. And you put me through something that a 15-year-old, especially, should never have to go through."

MACKENZIE HILL: I looked him straight in the face the entire time I was talking. ... I got to tell him how strong our family was. And even though he pretended like he wasn't listening, he wouldn't look at me, he -- I knew that he heard what I was saying.

I finally felt powerful towards him.

VANESSA REIBLI: The most powerful part to me was when Marti stood up and faced the man that tried to kill her. ... She said to Brian, "I was nothing but nice to you." And asking him, "Why did you do this to me?" And he just sat there. No response.

CAMI GILL: The judge asked Brian if he had anything to say before he gave him his sentence. The attorneys came back and said that he had nothing to say.

MONICA GILL: That he has the right to say nothing is-- is very hard. It feels like he should at least owe us an explanation.

CAMI GILL: Hopefully one day he'll communicate why he did it. I think it would help us all understand that it wasn't just a random event-- that there was some motive behind it -- some reason why it happened.

VANESSA REIBLI: The judge followed the plea agreement and sentenced Brian to 28-and-a-half years in the Kansas prison system.

MARTI HILL: I felt like we had a big team, working together, that made things right. ... great detectives, great attorney, great family support, great friends.

MACKENZIE HILL: I'm so proud of my mom. ... I need to become more like her and the person that she is. I need to have her work ethic and her personality and just to be a likable person so that if anything like that happened to me, that I would be able to make it thru it like she did.

I'm so thankful for the people at my mom's work that stepped up. ... It wasn't just like someone is missing from work. It was that one of their friends hadn't showed up and they were wondering why.

I think that the co-workers were definitely like my mom's angels.

STEPHANIE SCHEIBLER: I don't think any of us consider ourselves heroes in this. It's -- Marti is the hero.

She could have decided I -- this thing can beat me. And it -- it's made her an amazing person.

MARTI HILL: I think the kickboxing, it -- it initially started as just something to push myself a little further, working out. ... I knew that that was gonna be a key role in getting back to my regular life.

I do have scars. I have all across my neck still. ... I tend to pull my hair forward to cover it up. ... I still have tingling down the left side all the way. My head feels like a mannequin from here on. And my ear's very tight. ... So it's always a reminder, for sure.

MACKENZIE HILL: I think she's still dealing with the emotional part of it, that it's never going to be something that we can just put in the past. ... Even though it's over with and he's in jail and everything, that it's still ... there.

MARTI HILL: I think about the attack and the event a lot. ... How is somebody 26 and how do they get to a level that they could be that vicious? And be capable of doing those things.

If I could ask Pennington anything, it would be, "Why? What-- what were you doing?" I-- and-- yes. Just, "Why?"

"48 Hours" wrote to Brian Pennington to ask why he attacked Marti Hill. He did not respond.

Marti has created a website to help women recover from traumatic events.

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