A year has passed since 20-year old Colen Brodsky died just 50 yards from his Flower Mound home, hit from behind while riding a motorcycle he had owned for only a week.
His family has endured a tumultuous twelve months as they wrestle not only with grief but with questions resulting from that summer night, July 17th, 2009. Exactly one year later, Colen’s family and friends gathered for a memorial where tears were shed, memories were shared, and questions continued to go unanswered.
The crash occurred at the intersection of Morriss Road and Hazy Meadows Lane, just south of Marcus High School, and the observation of the one year anniversary of Colen’s death took place at his family home where the crash scene is a daily reminder of their loss, as it can be viewed from their windows.
A crowd of friends and relatives gathered on Saturday, July 17th, according to his mother Colleen, who said they watched videos of Colen, laughed, cried and released a number of balloons on Morriss Road. The balloons, she added, contained messages to Colen, who had been the baby of the family and described as intelligent, artistic and funny.
“He was precious, and he still is,” said Louis Brodsky, Colen’s father. “From the time he was born, he was teaching us things,” Colleen stated. The son they lost is also described as industrious, as he starting working at the age of 13 delivering coupons door to door.
At the time of his death, Colen’s future was still an open book as his career had not been settled upon although he continued working and going to community college and had recently re-united with a long-time girlfriend. His family said Colen had started a successful notary business with his dad, which was named in his honor: THE SIGNING CLWB (CLWB – Colen-Louis William Brodsky).
Two of Colen’s best friends were unable to attend the recent remembrance reunion because their second child was born that day. Colleen Brodsky said her son introduced Heather and Joey D’Agostino, and now they are married and have two children. “They did not make it as they had their baby at 12:30 a.m. on July 17th. They posted on Facebook thanking Colen for bringing their daughter Kiley to them safely. I knew that she was going to have the baby on this day. They also called me to tell me that Colen will always be a part of their lives and today proved it…having their baby on the day he passed away a year ago,” she said.
Colen’s parents have spent an anguished year grieving the loss of their son and waiting for some sort of justice to be done. In their opinion, the justice system failed as the driver of the vehicle that hit Colen from behind was not prosecuted. “I couldn’t even begin to describe the feelings we have,” Louis said.
Some of the questions they are left to wrestle with include how a grand jury arrived at their decision not to indict the driver of the vehicle that hit Brodsky, Joseph Tyler Hoffman, a then 17-year-old resident of Flower Mound. The family also said they question whether current laws are appropriate about how much time can pass between an accident and a blood sample being taken from a suspect.
The Brodsky tragedy unfolded as a group of friends and acquaintances caravanned from one home to another, and a vehicle driven by Hoffman was directly behind Brodsky. Witnesses say Hoffman had given a “love tap” to the motorcycle, which caused Brodsky to lose control and crash. Their son was wearing a helmet, his father said, but it was the wrong size and it flew off on impact. Louis Brodsky says a love tap is defined as “when a moving vehicle purposefully crashes into the rear of another moving vehicle” in this case a 2000 pound car is crashed into a 500 pound motorcycle. This is done in an attempt for the motorcycle to be forced onto a single wheel at 40 mph.”
Also, the father said, “Hoffman bumped Colen several times prior to the U-turn on Morris. When Colen reached the U-turn, Colen accelerated quickly to get away from Hoffman. This is when Hoffman floored his vehicle (telling the police “I thought we were racing”) and aimed his vehicle (according to the description of the police where Hoffman straddled the white line) directly at Colen and crashed into Colen at approx 40 to 60 mph.”
According to a police report, officers could smell alcohol on Hoffman’s breath when they arrived on the scene, and they also observed an opened bottle of gin on the floorboard. Hoffman failed a field sobriety test, according to the report, before being transported to the Flower Mound jail where he was booked and released, pending possible charges, after blood was drawn by medical personnel. The Brodsky’s say about three hours passed from the time of the incident to the time of the blood draw, and toxicology reports came back negative for alcohol.
However, six months later, Flower Mound Police arrested Hoffman and charged him with criminally negligent homicide in Brodsky‘s death. Some four months after that, a Denton County Grand Jury declined to indict Hoffman.
Thus began their search to understand why no one would be brought to justice in their son’s death. A grand jury’s purpose is to investigate alleged crimes, examine evidence, and issue indictments if they believe that there is enough evidence for a trial to proceed. They are an impartial panel of citizens who must determine whether reasonable cause or probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed exists. The grand jury acts as a check on the prosecutorial power of the state. Under a Supreme Court ruling, states are free not to use grand juries, and now the Brodsky family says they wonder if the system is faulty and outdated.
Louis Brodsky says about 60 cases were heard by the grand jury on the day in May when they deliberated on his son’s case. “If they only spent five minutes on average looking at these things, how can you make a rational decision?” he questioned. They also find the fact painful that around three hours had passed between the time of the accident and the time Hoffman’s blood sample was taken and wonder if laws in that arena need to be changed.
“The detective took ten months to put this case together,” Louis notes, “and the grand jury decided in about five minutes not to indict. Look at what this has done. Look at the mess this has made.”
Calls to the Denton County District Attorney and to Hoffman’s parents for their perspective on this story were not returned.
Colen’s mother holds on to the hope that she will see her son again some day. “He comes to me in dreams. I hear him. He tells me things.”
The family has set up a non-profit in memory of their son. The address for the Colen Louis-William Brodsky Foundation, which will focus on alcohol education for minors, is 5838 Sonoma Ridge, Missouri City, TX 77459. The Brodskys said they hope to have their older son speak at schools and events through the organization.