APEX, N.C. -- In a photo that Priyanka Kumari's father shared from inside her hospital room at Duke Medical Center, deep cuts from the blows of a machete-wielding man were clearly seen across her face, head, and neck.
Her hands were both heavily bandaged and placed in foam blocks to carefully prop them up, away from the rest of her aching body.
"Every moment, praying to the gods that my daughter will come back to normal one day," said Pankaj Kumar of his 18-year-old daughter. Kumar said he didn't recognize his daughter in the wake of Thursday's brutal assault.
A GoFundMe page has been set up by neighbors to help the family with medical expenses.
Her alleged attacker, 20-year-old Neel Mehta, was being held at the Wake County Detention Center and faced charges of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury.
While Kumar said he has faith in the judicial system, he said Mehta should have been charged with attempted murder from the outset.
"All the videos, the evidence, the eyewitnesses is clearly stating the fact that he had planned it, he had premeditation," Kumar said.
Capt. Blair Myhand with the Apex Police Department said officers presented a warrant for attempted murder after taking Mehta into custody at gunpoint on Thursday, but the magistrate decided to file the lesser assault charge instead.
Chief Magistrate for the 10th District, Dexter Williams, said the magistrate took out the charge they thought met the requirement of probable cause and that it was the appropriate charge.
Wake County District Attorney Lorin Freeman was preparing to send upgraded charges to the grand jury next week.
Eyewitnesses in Apex's Bella Casa neighborhood who called 911 shortly after 3 p.m. on Thursday said they watched for several minutes as Mehta struck Kumari repeatedly with a machete. Some of the blows were captured on cellphone video.
Kumar said his daughter had just walked off the school bus and was heading home when Mehta grabbed her, threw her to the ground and started hacking at her as she tried to use her hands to block the blade.
"(He) stomped her by his feet and jumped on her body and then started to cut her throat and cut her head off," Kumar said.
Detectives were poring over dashcam video, cellphone video from eyewitnesses, and home surveillance footage that one neighbor said show Mehta circling the block twice as he waited for Kumari to return from school.
While police maintain from their investigation that Mehta and Kumari had once been in a "dating relationship," her father said that isn't true.
Kumar said Mehta was obsessed with his daughter from the time they attended school together at Green Hope High School in Cary.
Kumar said he had Kumari transferred to Holly Springs High School at the end of 2015 to get away from Mehta, who he said was trying to force her to do drugs.
About a month before the attack, Kumar said Mehta started sending her threatening texts and messages on social media.
A Snapchat photo was discovered that friends of Mehta said he sent out hours before the attack. In the picture, he's seen holding the machete and making a kissing gesture.