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Monday, June 21, 2004
Dennehy reported missing a year ago

Associated Press

The shooting death of Baylor University basketball player Patrick Dennehy a year ago has taken a toll on some of those closest to him.

Dennehy's mother and stepfather have filed for divorce after more than 15 years of marriage. Their problems seemed to escalate after Dennehy's death, said his stepfather, Brian Brabazon. Both continue to grieve for the 6-foot-10 player who dreamed of playing professional basketball.

"It's sadness now. The anger for me has subsided," Brian Brabazon said. "I think about it every day. All I want is the truth to come out, why it happened and what happened."

Dennehy's former teammate, Carlton Dotson, is awaiting an August murder trial. He faces life in prison if convicted of gunning down his friend in a field of chest-high weeds near the Waco campus.

The Baylor men's basketball program has acknowledged major NCAA infractions and faces self-imposed sanctions, stemming from misdeeds by the coach who has since stepped down. Baylor also plans to implement new recruiting policies, including criminal background checks for student-athlete transfers.

Baylor's president, Robert Sloan, said Monday that the past year was one of the most tragic and difficult for the world's largest Baptist university.

"It's very painful to experience the loss of a student in any circumstance, but especially circumstances like these," Sloan said. "What's important is to take whatever happened and learn from it."

Brian Brabazon knew something was wrong last Father's Day when Dennehy, 21, didn't call their Carson City, Nev., home. The couple's concern grew after they found out his friends and a coach hadn't heard from him in about a week.

The Brabazons reported Dennehy missing June 19, 2003 -- seven days after authorities believe he was killed. His car was found June 25 in a Virginia Beach, Va., parking lot about 160 miles from Dotson's home in Hurlock, Md.

Dennehy's body was not found until late July, a few days after Dotson was arrested. Authorities have refused to discuss a motive or say whether Dotson led them to the body.

Dotson, now 22, remains jailed and is to be evaluated by a defense psychiatrist. His attorneys said they have not decided whether to seek an insanity defense.

After Dennehy disappeared, the men's basketball program was rocked with revelations of NCAA violations, which led to the August resignations of coach Dave Bliss and athletic director Tom Stanton.

School investigators later discovered that Bliss paid up to $40,000 in tuition for two players and improperly solicited $87,000 from Baylor boosters. The probe also revealed that staff members did not properly report some players' failed drug tests.

The infractions led to self-imposed sanctions, including reduced scholarships, an extra year of probation and reduced contact between coaches and recruits. The school also banned itself from postseason play this season.

Baylor also faced a wrongful-death lawsuit by Patrick Dennehy Sr., who had little contact with his son until a few years ago. But the judge threw out the case in February, saying the school never could have predicted the athlete's death.

Then last month, Valorie Brabazon, Dennehy's mother, reached an undisclosed settlement with Baylor after agreeing not to sue.

But Brian Brabazon, who raised Dennehy since he was a child, believes Baylor should have done more to protect his stepson.

"Originally, I wanted to bring Baylor down to its knees," Brabazon said. "I'm not a greedy person; I wanted Baylor to say they were wrong. They never said, 'We're sorry. We should have done this better.' "

Dennehy's stepfather said the family, especially Dennehy's teenage sister, continues struggling to recover from the death.

About every six weeks, Brabazon drives five hours to Dennehy's grave in San Jose, Calif., even if he can only stay for 20 minutes before driving back home. He said Dennehy's mother goes about once a month.

Brabazon said whatever prison sentence is meted out in Dennehy's death won't be enough because prisoners have rights.

"When we go back to San Jose, Patrick isn't coming out to give us a hug or to talk to us on the phone through a glass window," he said. "... No punishment in the world will make up for what happened."