SAN MARCOS, Calif. - An 8-year-old local girl who was stabbed 26 times in a brutal attack was all smiles Monday as the community rallied to support her during a golf tournament to benefit her and her brother.
She was not expected to survive, but on Monday, 8-year-old Azalyea Duran was clearly thriving although her mother died in the same stabbing attack inside their home four months ago.
While the scars near her chin and chest are still healing, Azalyea was all smiles and giggles at a golf tournament. That is because 200 strangers all gathered for golf and an auction dinner to raise money for her medical bills, her and her brother's care and for college.
"It's nice that they came here for me," Azalyea told 10News.
On Monday, at a benefit at the Twin Oaks Golf Course in San Marcos, 10News learned from a first responder why her attack became personal to him.
Azalyea gave a tight squeeze to San Marcos firefighter paramedic Jaime Serrato, who was one of the first responders to the home on the night of her attack.
"It's just a true testament," said Serrato as he held on to the little girl as she stood by his side. "She's a special little girl."
To her, he is a hero.
Serrato told 10News that seeing the girl just after her attack, it became personal.
"Having a son that's close in age to Azalyea definitely made it hit close to home for us," Serrato said.
In December, Azalyea's brother found his mother and little sister in a pool of blood in their San Marcos home. Prosecutors say an acquaintance, 28-year-old Daniel Hernandez stabbed Azalyea's mother Antonia and Azalyea more than two dozen times. He was arrested at a laundromat washing his clothes and shoes.
Antonia died from her stab wounds. Azalyea was placed into a medically-induced coma and woke up on Christmas Day. She returned to school a month later.
"That was the most exciting day for all of us," said her aunt and guardian, Debbie Gomez. "She just went in. All the kids… I've never seen so many kids… tell her, 'I love you' and it shook us and they ran up to her and said 'Azalyea!'"
Gomez said she is overwhelmed by the community's support.