By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer
HOLMES BEACH – A victim’s advocate for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Department, Sue Normand knows how easy it is to destroy the course of somebody else’s life.
After becoming a victim of a shooting Dec. 5 in Holmes Beach, she is clinging to the best wishes of her community to ward off feelings of depression that some with knowing what a long road she faces in her struggle to return to a normal life.
Normand did not have health insurance when Mark W. Koenigs, a regular customer, entered her store holding a small box, took a gun out of the box and shot her at close range, striking her in her abdomen. The bullet shattered her pelvis, and she faces up to a year of using a walker while she goes through physical therapy.
Normand was released from Bayfront Hospital in St. Petersburg last weekend and is now at a rehab center, thanks to her friend, Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore.
Normand’s main problem is the fact that she lives in an elevated house and cannot climb stairs. Whitmore, who has extensive experience in the medical field, has been busy making sure Normand doesn’t fall through the bureaucratic cracks.
"I was able to set her up with a primary physician and get her into a physical therapy program," Whitmore said. "She needs some kind of a lift or elevator so she can get into her home, but it’s expensive."
After the shooting that forced her to close her business, Island Mail and More, during the busiest time of the year, her son, Stephen came to the rescue and agreed to reopen and run the business. Since then, several people have volunteered to help him by running errands and last Saturday, Whitmore was there putting packages in the back and weighing items for the mail.
Several people contacted The Sun last week asking how best to help. One was Lynne Henneman, of Cortez.
“ ..... I connected with Sue's son, Stephen, and have been helping him in the store as often as I can since last week.,” Henneman said in her email. “I was pleased to hear how supportive the community has been and to see first hand the concern of Anna Maria Island residents and shop owners ... those who know Sue and those who never met her.
“I heard about the Chamber's efforts, and I'm sure there will be a big response once the information is publicized,” she wrote. “I plan to help as needed at the store at least until Christmas. Isn't it refreshing to hear about the good deeds people do versus the ugly acts of violence so prevalent today?”
The Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, of which Normand has been a member for many years, has stepped in and activated an account to collect donations for Normand’s medical expenses and changes to her home to accommodate her handicap. Donations are tax deductible. Checks should be made to Bay of Dreams, Inc., c/o Sue Normand and can be brought to the Chamber of Commerce, 5313 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.
Meanwhile, Normand makes plans for the future – a future now changed by an act that took only seconds. She is touched at how the community we call Anna Maria Island has responded to her plight.
"I appreciate everything that every one has done and I love how people care about what happens to their neighbors," she said. "I’ve had so many phone calls and cards and they have carried me through this experience emotionally."
The man suspected of shooting her remains in custody. Mark Koenigs was captured on the beach near Bridge Street within an hour of the shooting after he apparently went south on foot. He was shot three times during the capture after he pointed a pistol at law enforcement officers. He has repeatedly refused to talk with police and is being held on more than $2 million bond on a charge of attempted first degree murder and two charges of aggravated assault. He will be arraigned on Jan. 18 in Judge Diana Moreland’s courtroom. Public Defender Peter Belmont will represent Koenigs.
As for the apparently random act that turned her life upside down, Normand is philosophical. She realizes it was something that could have happened anywhere, it just happened on the Island.
"It only goes to prove that ‘crazy’ has no zip code," she said.