On Monday morning, Aimee Cabo Nikolov fought back tears as she spoke to PEOPLE about daughter Danielle Jones, characterizing Jones' condition as "touch and go."
Jones has been in a coma since police found her battered, bruised body on Feb. 14 – her 23rd birthday. The following day, Miami police arrested 35-year-old Byron Mitchell on attempted murder charges.
Mitchell had been Jones' roommate for about two weeks, Nikolov says, and police say that the pair had met through a Craigslist advertisement. Mitchell is being held without bail.
"Every morning, I feel like I'm going to fall apart," Nikolov tells PEOPLE. "But I need to keep fighting for my daughter and I need to be there for her. She did open her eyelids a little bit the other day, but the doctors tell me it is going to be a long, slow recovery if she recovers at all."
A Miami police spokesman did not respond to calls for comment on the case Monday, but Nikolov says her daughter was choked, beaten, and mutilated by Mitchell.
"He is telling the police that they were boyfriend and girlfriend and he was acting in self-defense," Nikolov explains. "He claims she came at him with a knife three times, and he killed her before she could kill him. He admitted to choking her and banging her head against the floor."
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Jones was left virtually "unrecognizable" by the attack when Mitchell allegedly sliced her eyelids off, Nikolov says.
"He mutilated her face and she had orbital and skull fractures," says Nikolov. "She lost so much blood and he choked her until she stopped breathing. He really tried to kill her, and now she's on breathing machines and has a feeding tube. She has ice packs around her knees to regulate her temperature. But I'm holding onto hope."
Mother Says Movements of Jones 'Indicative of Brain Damage'At Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center, doctors have been attempting to bring Jones out of her coma. She reacts to pain, but Nikolov says she's also showing signs of significant brain damage.
"She's making fists with both her hands and curving them towards her body, which is indicative of brain damage," Nikolov says. "The longer she is in a coma, the more problems arise. Every day gets harder and harder, and every morning, I get up and cry."
Nikolov disputes Mitchell's claims he acted in self-defense, noting he's a former military man who sustained no injuries during the Valentine's Day incident.
"He has no injuries and it took doctors 300 stitches to put my daughter's head back together," says Nikolov. "Self-defense isn't nearly killing someone."
A GoFundMe page has been launched to help pay for some of Jones' medical expenses. Nikolov asks that those who can’t afford to donate to the cause pray for her daughter's recovery.
"I wouldn't wish this on any mother," Nikolov tells PEOPLE. "I'm constantly haunted by what she must have gone through, what it was like for her, who she will be after all of this. She will have to wear the scars from this attack forever, and she may not ever talk again."