Stephanie Luke and her daughter almost died two years ago in a domestic violence shooting.
This Sunday, they will celebrate their recovery as they run Bloomsday together.
Luke, 37, moved to Spokane in 2015 with her three children for a new job.
Around that time, she met Zion Carter, who was incarcerated, through a friend. The two developed a friendship that turned into a romantic relationship. When he got out of prison, the two married and moved into Luke’s home in Airway Heights .
Carter was great with Luke’s children, she said. There weren’t any red flags in the relationship after Carter’s release until he started exhibiting signs of mental illness, Luke said.
He would hear and see things that weren’t there, Luke said. She spoke with Carter’s probation officer and set up an appointment for a mental health evaluation, Luke said.
On the hot summer evening of July 27, 2021, the couple picked up a friend from the airport, then headed home with Luke’s then-11-year-old daughter, Aisha. Luke’s sons were having a sleepover with their cousins at her sister’s house.
When they got home, Carter was agitated but quickly apologized, Luke said.
“I was, like, I don’t know what’s wrong,” Luke said. “You’re really having some issues.”
She offered to go stay at a hotel so that Carter could have some space to decompress, but he said he would rather just take a drive, Luke said.
“He used to go on drives whenever he would feel like he was starting to see things or accuse me of things that weren’t really there,” Luke said.
Carter left, and Luke and her daughter went to bed. A few hours later, Luke awoke to the sound of a gun cocking. Her husband was accusing her of sending someone to attack him, Luke said. Carter kept calling her “cuz” and making accusations, Luke said.
“He just seemed like he was out of his mind,” Luke said. “Once I realized there was no talking to him, I started to turn away and walk, and I just remember the first two.”
Carter shot Luke in the chest at close range, then again in the stomach, Luke said.
Then she blacked out.
When she awoke, Luke had two more gunshot wounds. It was quiet and she was alone.
Then Aisha came in with gunshot wounds of her own. Luke told her daughter to run to the neighbor’s house and not come back, fearing Carter was still in the house.
“I thought I was going to die,” Luke said.
When first responders arrived, the two were taken to the hospital, where they both underwent surgery. Luke had more organ damage than her daughter, who was released days after her surgery.
Luke was hospitalized for three weeks. While she was in and out of consciousness, law enforcement launched a dayslong manhunt for Carter, who was arrested in the Tacoma area.
Carter continues to await trial for two counts of attempted first-degree murder, among other charges. He recently changed his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity, according to court documents.
The couple’s marriage was annulled after the shooting.
Once she was healed enough to go home, Luke was faced with a house full of blood.
“I cleaned up my own crime scene,” Luke said.
Child protective services removed her two older children from her home, Luke said, adding to the family’s trauma. Authorities worried that Carter’s gang ties from earlier convictions put the family at risk, Luke said.
She sold her Airway Heights home and moved back in with her parents in Sunnyside. Luke continued to have medical issues, resulting in frequent surgeries to address damage to her liver and kidneys.
Eventually, she regained custody of her older children. Her sister helped with the kids as Luke’s health problems persisted.
Luke and her kids, along with her sister and her kids, moved back to Spokane this fall. Luke returned to work after a leave of absence and had her 25th and hopefully final surgery, she said.
She was cleared to work out about 45 days ago and has been as active as possible ever since.
Running Bloomsday has always been a goal of Luke’s, but the COVID-19 pandemic put a pause on that. Luke and her daughter have had a long road to recovery, she said, but they finally feel like they’re in a good place.
“It’s amazing,” Luke said. “Just seeing her be good allows me to be good.”