Alleah Taylor, the woman who says she was brutally attacked by former, is speaking out for the first time since the incident. In a "CBS This Morning" exclusive interview, she told CBS News' Jericka Duncan that she will have to deal with the events that allegedly transpired for the rest of her life.
"I still have to regularly get my concussion checked... I have bolts, and steel, and a steel plate I'm gonna have forever in my arm... I'm gonna have...gonna have to deal with this the rest of my life," she said.
Photos of Taylor's injuries were leaked and made national headlines. She said she was injured after Wheeler, her then-boyfriend, attacked her. Taylor said the pair dated for six months with barely an argument.
"We were, like, best friends. We did everything together...I even introduced him to my family. We would babysit my nephew together," she said.
But according to Taylor, that all changed on January 22—starting with a text from Wheeler that he'd shaved his head.
"He loved, just loved his long hair. Refused to cut it. And it surprised me, and it worried me," Taylor recalled. "I came home. And Chad was trying to play it off as if he just kinda cut his hair. But then, as time went on throughout the day, he started going downhill emotionally."
Taylor later told police it was the beginning of a "manic episode," adding she knew Wheeler suffered from bipolar disorder. Taylor said Wheeler then "snapped into a dark place."
"He, he stood up. And he told me to bow down. And I asked him why. And he didn't respond. He just told me to bow down again. And I told him no. And he immediately grabbed my neck. And that's when things began," she tearfully said.
"Do you recall what happened after that?" Duncan asked.
Taylor, who is 5-foot-9, says that's when Wheeler, who is 6-foot-7 and weighs more than 300-pounds, tried to choke her. Taylor said she blacked out twice before the attack was over.
"I had touched my face. And I looked down, and there was, there's blood on my hand...I remember getting up and running to the bathroom. Chad was standing by the bed, by the doorway. And he was sipping his smoothie and was, like, "Wow, you're, you're still alive," Taylor said.
Taylor said she then locked herself in the bathroom, called 911, and texted her family and Wheeler's father for help. According to police reports, it took three officers and two sets of handcuffs to restrain Wheeler. Police said Wheeler kept apologizing as he was arrested.
"Do you think that Chad's behavior is directly connected to a mental health issue?" Duncan asked.
"To be honest, I don't know. He went and ate dinner after doing this to me. And he didn't take the same approach with the cops as he did with me," Taylor responded.
The Seahawks dropped Wheeler. The team released a statement saying that the team "strongly condemn(s) this act of domestic violence." Wheeler pleaded not guilty to three charges, including domestic violence assault on February 1. Taylor showed up to the arraignment to face Wheeler in court and to say Wheeler is still a threat to her safety.
"Why was it so important for you to appear in court?" Duncan asked Taylor.
"I didn't want him to think that he had that power over me. That I wasn't going to defend myself... I thought, how easy would that be for him and his legal team to be able to say whatever they want without having to look me in the eye," she said.
When asked if she thinks Wheeler should serve jail time, Taylor said he should.
"Yes. Yes. I definitely do think that he should. I have to say the hardest part of all this wasn't the surgeries. It wasn't any of that. It was getting a call from my niece and nephews...They thought they had lost me. And the pain in their voice. I will never forget that. I will never forget that," she said.
"How grateful are you to be alive?" Duncan asked.
"Beyond grateful. I really feel like God has blessed me with another chance...And I wanna try to use the time I've been blessed with... to help other people. And to get the story out. And make sure people don't feel alone. And that this doesn't happen again," Taylor answered.
Taylor said a big source of her strength is her grandmother, who spent years advocating for domestic violence victims. CBS News reached out to Wheeler's attorneys—they declined to comment on the case. His trial is set to begin in Washington state in April.
This story raises issues related to both domestic violence and mental health issues. If you need help, reach out to the free resources below.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-SAFE or thehotline.org
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA): 800-662-HELP or SAMSHA.gov