HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - The Largo family has been through a lot. They lost a daughter and a grandmother at the hands of a family member suffering with mental illness. Their other daughter was told she wouldn't survive. But this family has pulled together to overcome the darkest day of their life.
Identical twin girls Kimberly and Courtney McCarten were born October 27th, 1995.
"Courtney spoiled Kimberly from the womb," said their mother Loretta Largo.
The two came into the world an inseparable pair -- Courtney the sweet, shy twin, and Kimberly more lively.
"Very fun loving," said Loretta Largo. "Life of the party. Prankster."
Loretta Largo moved her daughters to Madison County from New Jersey in 2000. She began a career in real estate and married Frank Largo, who was raising a daughter of his own. The two families merged, never anticipating tragedy would test their bond.
Kimberly and Courtney spent every summer with their grandmother Loretta Weed at her home in New Jersey. Last year, the twins' mother said she had an uneasy feeling.
"I didn't have a real reason why I didn't want them to go," said Loretta Largo. "I just knew that I didn't want them to go."
The girls insisted and their mother reluctantly gave in. They were due back home on August 4, but their grandmother decided to wait one more day, not knowing it would be their last.
Police said the twins and their grandmother were brutally attacked by the girls' uncle Ronald Weed, who suffers from schizophrenia.
"Courtney was the one there next to my mother, trying to talk my brother down," Loretta Largo said. "Kimberly was the one who got on the phone with 911."
The twins' uncle is charged with using an axe to attack and kill his mother. Police say he then turned his rage on his 12-year-old nieces.
Kimberly died at a New Jersey hospital. Doctors gave Courtney little hope of surviving her serious brain trauma.
"They told us from the very beginning if she survives she won't walk, talk like a normal child," Loretta Largo said.
Then a miracle happened, and Courtney defied the odds.
"I've come very far," Courtney said. "I'm just almost back to normal."
Courtney's 13 now, back in school, and enjoys playing outdoors with her animals. She's closer than ever to her family. But there's a part of her that's missing, a sister she can never replace.
"Well, we may have fought a lot, but we still loved each other a lot," Courtney said.
It's a closeness that's obvious in snapshots of the twins growing up together, smiling and holding hands. It was a time when things seemed perfect, before tragedy set in.
"Sometimes I can't handle it by myself," Courtney said.
"We do miss her," said Frank Largo. "There are moments where I have a hard time sleeping."
The Largos said they've accepted what's happened, but are still adjusting to the loss of Kimberly. They rely heavily on their faith to get through them through the bad days - leaning on the power of prayer and hoping to bring peace to a family scared by a senseless act.
"I know that when Jesus comes back, I'm going to have Kimberly back," said Loretta Largo. "I know she is resting. She's in a better place than we are."
"I believe one day we will see her again," said Courtney. "I want to go to heaven with her."
Courtney will undergo more surgery to replace a bone shattered in her skull.
Tonight at 10, WAFF 48 News will tell you more about the girl's uncle, who is charged with murder. We'll also tell you how the family is working to get state law changed to help other families dealing with a mentally ill loved one.