Family of slain Fort Worth student finds strength in memories

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by MONIKA DIAZ

WFAA

Posted on May 28, 2013 at 11:31 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 28 at 11:47 PM

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FORT WORTH — Broderick Patterson's angry outburst in a courtroom a year ago was caught on camera moments after a jury found the 18-year-old guilty of murder.

But his victim's family said he is the last person they think about.

Instead, they prefer to remember Eric Forrester without ever thinking of his killer.

The 17-year-old Southwest High School student was shot and killed three years ago when he discovered a burglar in his family's Fort Worth home.

Eric's family doesn't let a day go by without remembering him at their home on Poco Court in Fort Worth.

"He told me he loved me every single night before we went to bed," said his mom, Debbie Forrester. Every morning, the Forrester family lives with the heartbreaking silence of a stolen son.

"I think it's the toughest when I wake up in the morning, because you wake up and you think, 'Oh no. It's real. He's really not here," Mrs. Forrester said.

The piano.

The guitars.

The cello.

All sit silently, without the talented hands that brought them to life.

"He played music all the time. And you know, it's quiet," said Eric's father, Richard Forrester.

The two parents are finding comfort and healing in the memories of their son in the home he grew up in; the home where he lost his life.

"This is where all the family memories are," Mr. Forrester said. "If you picked up and moved and you didn't have any roots anymore, it would be real hollow."

In April, three years ago, Eric Forrester and his sister Kali surprised two intruders when they came home for lunch. Kali ran to a neighbor's house to call 911.

When she came back, she found her brother in the kitchen. He had been shot in the head.

"I felt his heartbeat slowly disappear," Kali said. "At times, I guess, people say that his last moments were with me, but I just felt like I left him."

The unnecessary guilt still lingers.

"There were just some moments that I missed that I would go back and make sure that I made it," said brother Sean Forrester.

No family member is immune to its grip.

"I just want to hug him and tell him that I love him... that I care about him," said Eric's sister Niki Brawley.

The men convicted of killing Eric Forrester — Clifton Elliot and Broderick Patterson — are serving prison time. Elliot got 30 years. Patterson received a life sentence.

His profane outburst in court after a jury sentenced him startled the family, but they say it revealed his true character.

"It helped the jurors know that they made the right decision," Mrs. Forrester said.

The Forrester family also made a choice after the trials: They don't speak of the killers.

"If you are going to spend your energy on something, you are going to spend it on family and remembering the person that you've lost," Sean Forrester said.

Family members are pushing through the sadness and celebrating the young man Eric became.

"He had such a zeal for life," Richard Forrester said. "Everything he did, he did full-heartedly. He was very giving."

The Forresters choose to remember the lives Eric saved through organ donation.

"That day was a tragedy for us, but it was a miracle for somebody else," Brawley said.

And the family still feels Eric's presence.

"I just remember him telling me, 'I'm okay. Don't be sorry, I love you and everything's going to be all right," Kali said.

They miss Eric most when they are together. But that's when dad makes a call to his voicemail number.

"Hello, this is Eric, I'm not here right now..."

"I will tell him what's going on. I tell him we love him, and hopefully, we will get to see you again," Richard Forrester said.

The family celebrates Eric's passion for music by awarding a music scholarship annually to a Southwest High School student.

E-mail mdiaz@wfaa.com

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