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Still in shock: As nun recovers, friends, neighbors share disbelief

MANATEE -- Taped on the doors of Stillpoint House of Prayer are photos of Eliseo Ortiz with the words “wanted call 911” written in English and Spanish below them.

He is the only suspect in the beating of Sister Nora Brick, the 81-year-old humanitarian who has been hospitalized since she was brutally attacked Monday.

The assault left Sister Nora with black eyes, a broken nose, a concussion and cuts on her forehead.

“He’s crazy,” said Franciszo Mendoza, a volunteer who was putting up the wanted posters. “Every day he’d come for food, for clothes. He’s crazy. She’s an old woman. She helps everyone.”

As of Wednesday night, detectives were still looking for Ortiz and had obtained a warrant for his arrest, according to sheriff’s office spokesman Dave Bristow.

Ortiz apparently had gone to Sister Nora on Valentine’s Day, asking for money then beating her when she refused, authorities said.

“She’s handling it well and is the sweetest person I’ve met,” Manatee Memorial Hospital vice president Vernon DeSear said. “She wishes no ill will on anyone.”

He said she is listed in good condition and is expected to be released sometime Saturday.

Those who know Sister Nora say she has already forgiven Ortiz.

“She’s a remarkable person; she said she pardoned the man for doing that,” said Donald Gaudette, a manager at Stillpoint. “If Eliseo said he wanted money to stay at the Salvation Army, she’d say make out a check for him.

“She doesn’t have any of that ‘why me’ stuff. She’s in good spirits and therefore she will just recover as naturally as an 81-year-old can recover.”

Those at Stillpoint, however, are not as quick to forgive.

Stillpoint exists, many say, because of Sister Nora. There, volunteers provide food, financial assistance and other support for migrant workers and needy residents of Manatee County.

Many people who have received aid from Stillpoint came back Wednesday, showing their support for Sister Nora and asking for the posters of Ortiz to take throughout town.

“I was surprised -- some of those people haven’t been there in a while,” Gaudette said. “They’re all coming back and been very respectful of her and very sad for her,” he said. “This just doesn’t program in my mind. It’s like a guy hitting his mother.”

Sister Nora was assaulted at her home in the Mary Ann Mobile Home Park & Efficiency Apartments on 14th Street West. Neighbors there were just as shocked at the viciousness of the attack.

“It’s a very quiet neighborhood, everybody was shocked, yes, we still are very shocked,” said neighbor Martha Diaz, 61.

She pointed to Sister Nora’s tidy, modest home with a statue of Mary guarding the door.

“You never expect that here,” said Diaz, who was driving by Sister Nora’s home on Monday just as a man approached the front door.

“The day she was hurt, I saw him standing by the door,” Diaz recalled.

“She opened the door; we didn’t think anything about it because she helps everybody.”

When she returned 30 minutes later, Sister Nora was in an ambulance.

As for the nun’s attacker, “If I see him, I’d remember him,” said Diaz.

Both she and another neighbor, Norma Resendiz, said they believe the suspect was riding a red bicycle.

The attack has left them shaken.

“We’ve become more aware,” said Resendiz, 49. “We’re keeping a closer eye as to who’s coming in.”

Resendiz said she was home during the attack, but did not hear anything until the ambulance appeared.

“We just couldn’t believe it,” she said.

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