One by one, the five women waiting for buttock-enhancement injections went into the room with Padge Victoria Windslowe, the so-called "Black Madam" charged with performing the illegal procedures as an underground business. After five to 10 minutes, each woman returned with cotton balls Krazy-Glued to the injection site on her instantly larger rear end.
Windslowe left as soon as she was finished, according to one former client, but not before leaving instructions for the women. She told them to lie down for four or five hours so the silicone would not leak, to drink plenty of water, to avoid sitting for three days, and to get deep-tissue massages. She also took their phone numbers, pledging to check on how they were doing.
Windslowe never called, according to a 23-year-old exotic dancer who testified in Common Pleas Court on Wednesday. Prosecutors asked that she be identified only by her last name of King because of safety concerns.
In February, the second time King said she received injections from Windslowe, she ended up in a hospital struggling to breathe, throwing up blood, and fearing for her life. After doctors found fragments of silicone attached to her lungs and heart, King was put on oxygen. She stopped using it only about two weeks ago, she said.
"I couldn't leave the house," said King, who said she had believed Windslowe was a registered nurse with a background in cosmetology. "I couldn't even walk around."
The Inquirer is not identifying King by first name because prosecutors said that she had faced intimidation because of her involvement with the case. Assistant District Attorney Carlos Vega would not elaborate.
"She is very upset," Vega said after the hearing. "She is also afraid. Issues have come up. ... We are taking steps to ensure she is safe."
Judge Jacquelyn Frazier-Lyde ordered Windslowe, 42, held for trial. She was arrested Feb. 29 on charges of aggravated assault and deceptive practices and is being held on $750,000 bail.
Windslowe, tall with long eyelashes and close-cropped hair, was dressed in snug-fitting black leggings and a short jacket with black sequins on the collar. She spoke softly when answering questions and watched the proceedings attentively.
Windslowe's attorneys requested that her bail be lowered, saying she has close ties to Philadelphia through her family, many of whom were in attendance Wednesday. Windslowe could have left the area more than a year ago, attorney Douglas Gould said, when she was sought for questioning in connection with the death of 20-year-old British student Claudia Aederotimi. She died in 2011 after allegedly taking injections from Windslowe in a hotel room and her death remains under investigation. Instead, Windslowe hired lawyers and surrendered her passport.
As another reason Windslowe would not flee, Gould added, "She wears four-inch heels constantly."
Prosecutors countered that Windslowe ran a lucrative cash business and uses several aliases, names, and Social Security numbers. Searches of her three home addresses turned up eight cellphones, said Assistant District Attorney Bridget Kirn, as well as multiple flash drives, hard drives, and press clippings of herself..
King met Windslowe in late 2010 after asking coworkers if they knew anyone who did body enhancements. Shanell Saunders, a friend nicknamed "Backshots," organized a "pumping party" at her East Germantown home on New Year's Eve 2010, and King paid Windslowe $1,000 for four injections, she said.
King felt fine afterward, but in February 2011, when she saw news coverage of Windslowe's possible involvement in Aderotimi's death, she grew concerned. Eventually, however, she wanted more injections and attended another party in February 2012. King said that when she asked Windslowe about the woman's death, Windslowe replied that Aderotimi had been high on cocaine.
"She said she didn't kill the girl," King said.
With that round of injections, King said she felt more pain than before, and her legs started shaking. Windslowe reassured her, saying she was giving her more silicone that time and that the silicone was of a medical quality. Within a day of the procedure, King had a fever of 109 degrees, she said, and breathing was becoming impossible.
"I felt like someone was sitting on my chest," she said.
She first went to Temple University Hospital, who she said sent her home with a diagnosis of pneumonia. When she later went to Lankenau Hospital she had symptoms of heart failure, said Arka Banerjee, a doctor who attended to King. She was diagnosed with silicone embolism syndrome, stemming from the fragments of silicone that worked their way into her bloodstream. Her condition has since improved, but Banerjee said the silicone cannot be removed from her lungs, and her breathing will always be compromised. She is at risk for developing lung problems in the future, he said, and an infection such as pneumonia or the flu could prove fatal.
Since her release from the hospital, King said, she has improved significantly and returned to work a few weeks ago. But she said she can no longer perform the most acrobatic dance moves, including climbing on poles, because she gets too out of breath.
Gould sought to downplay King's long-term prognosis, saying there was no way to be certain how much more King would improve. He also drew attention to a police statement in which King told detectives she did not think Windslowe held any medical licenses.
"What we're dealing with is a consensual act between two adults," he said after the hearing.
Kirn described King's condition as "precarious," and said Windslowe deliberately gave the impression that she was a medical professional.
"She acts as though she's a nurse," Kirn said. "She gives instructions as though this is some type of procedure that should be happening."