FOX UNDERCOVER - At home for visits with his loving family, one of Paul Stanizzi's favorite things to do was play chase with the family dog, running and letting himself be licked in the face.
That, his family jokes, along with eating, was one of the 44-year-old's favorite things.
But the developmentally disabled man is now in a hospital, paralyzed, unable to say what happened, and his family as well as the police want answers.
"Paul counts for something and they need to get going and hold somebody accountable because he's important to us and we love him very much," said his mother, Ruth Stanizzi.
The Stanizzi family's nightmare began when Ruth Stanizzi got a call late last month from a worker at the group home in Bedford where Paul had been living.
"He said, ‘I found Paul on the floor next to his bed, I tried to get him up to give him a shower and I couldn't get him up so I called 911,'" his mother recalls being told.
Paul's family rushed to the hospital and was surprised to find him laying down, not moving.
"I thought maybe he got too much medicine," Ruth Stanizzi said.
"He never lays on his back," his brother, Joe Stanizzi said. "He has to get sedated just to get his teeth looked at.
Then more signs for concern became apparent.
"I found all kinds of marks. Black eye, he had a bloody nose, bruises on his fingers, scratches on his arm, looks like fingerprint bruises on his arms, two huge bruises on his leg which looked to me like he'd been kicked, a big cut on his knee on the other side, and multiple other abrasions," Joe Stanizzi said.
After a round of tests found nothing, the hospital was getting ready to discharge him.
"Everything came back clear so they said, ‘Well you can take him home,' in the emergency room, ‘You'll be able to take him home.' Then when my husband went to sit him up, he went like this," Ruth Stanizzi said, noting how her son flopped down, unable to hold himself up.
"We said, ‘Oh boy. Something bad is wrong, it's not just getting too much medicine or something,'" she said.
An MRI found damage to the vertebrae around the neck. Medical records note "possible recent injury" as a cause.
The doctors performed emergency surgery.
"When you heard about his vertebrae that only fueled your suspicion?" FOX Undercover reporter Mike Beaudet asked Joe Stanizzi.
"Absolutely," he replied. "I was furious, absolutely furious."
"What do you think happened?" Beaudet asked him.
"To me, my brother said it best, he looked like he was in a (Mixed Martial Arts) fight or he was dropped off a cliff or something. He was just shattered," Joe Stanizzi replied.
While the family fears Stanizzi may have been attacked, Bedford police are still investigating whether or not an assault occurred.
One thing that investigators are looking at is whether a pre-existing condition that Stanizzi had in his spine may have caused or contributed to his paralysis, though his family says he never had any symptoms like he has now.
The non-profit that runs Stanizzi's group home, The Edinburg Center, points out they have cared for Stanizzi for 23 years. In a statement, Chief Executive Officer Ellen Attaliades said Stanizzi is considered part of The Edinburg Center family and his health and well-being are their primary concern.
Attaliades said she could not discuss Stanizzi's medical condition because of patient confidentiality rules but said, "Unfortunately there are instances when individuals with severe developmental disabilities can injure themselves through their own physical actions. To allege abuse without any evidence and without considering all factors is both wrong and unjust to his devoted caregivers."
As the investigation continues, Stanizzi remains in the hospital, his ability to walk again unclear. His mother wants police to know that, even though her son can't talk, his family is going to speak for him.
"I want them to know that Paul can't speak for himself, but he has a loving and caring family and friends that will speak for him," Ruth Stanizzi said. "He could run and he could walk, he could feed himself and he laughed and he loves everybody and he gives hugs and kisses and he understands, but he just can't speak."
© 2016 Cox Media Group.
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