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The wheel of fortune took a wicked spin four years ago for Denise Lickers.

Buffalo police found her mother, a caring and popular psychiatric social worker at Buffalo General Hospital, murdered two days after Christmas.

Detectives never could scrape together sufficient evidence to arrest anyone, although they had suspicions about who killed Mrs. Boyd in the front hallway of her Main Street Apartment on Dec. 27, 1986.

Even a reward offer by Mrs. Boyd's family failed to flush out possible witnesses to her murder.

"She had a great impact on my life," Mrs. Lickers said of her late mother.

"We talked every day. Even after I married, she was always trying to get me to go back to school. She instilled a lot of things about education. Without it, she said, you won't be able to go anywhere."

After her mother's death, Mrs. Lickers resolved to fulfill her mother's wish.

She finished nursing school -- even with four small children to care for at home. And she passed her boards with flying colors on her very first try.

"It was great," Mrs. Lickers said. "But it was sad, too, because my mother wasn't there to see it."

In July, while working as a licensed practical nurse at a local nursing home, she rushed to the aid of a 250-pound patient who was tumbling out of a wheelchair. The result: severe damage to the muscles in her right arm and lingering pain that has kept her out of work since.

Even now, she can't lift her 2-year-old son, Derrick, and the simple exercise of writing gives her twinges of pain.

Two months ago, doctors gave her cortisone and said she could go back to work on light duty, but her bosses felt uncomfortable taking her back with restrictions. The workers compensation she was receiving was cut back from $540 biweekly to $270 biweekly.

Mrs. Lickers is separated from her husband of nearly eight years. He does not work or contribute to the maintenance of John, 9, Michael, 6, Lisa, 5, and Derrick, she says.

And since last month, there are now two more children in her household. The mother of Shannine, 14, and Shanequa, 12, left them in Mrs. Lickers' care and packed up to go to Florida for an undetermined length of time.

"Their mother is my cousin," Mrs. Lickers explained. "I thought it would be easier for the children to be around someone they know."

She is trying to become their legal guardian.

The cousin promised to send money to help out with her children's care, but so far has not found a job, Mrs. Lickers said.

Given all this, the outlook for Christmas this year is bleak, with little money coming in to the household and lots of little children expecting gifts.

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