Ten years to the day her son died, Karen Brill-Kelley carried his urn into a Las Vegas courtroom on Thursday as a man who admitted killing him was sent to prison.
“This is my son’s body in here,” she said of 16-year-old Aric Brill, weeping. “It’s just a pile of ashes.”
While her son’s case remained unsolved, Brill-Kelley would call police at least twice a year, checking for developments.
“A huge part of us died that day with him,” she said of her family and friends that packed the courtroom gallery, many wearing shirts with her son’s image.
Authorities have said her persistence kept the once-cold case on their radar.
The shooting was a random act of violence motivated by a robbery and was gang-related, police have said.
The slaying went unsolved for years before Nadin Hiko and three other men — Arthur Moore, Devonte Wash and Devon Phillips — were indicted in 2016.
“We still break down,” Brill-Kelley said. “We have learned not to fight our grief.”
Hiko, 28, pleaded guilty last month to second-degree murder for his role in the fatal shooting. On Thursday, he apologized to Brill’s family.
“No words can fix what happened,” he said. “I wish the younger me was better at making choices.”
District Judge Michelle Leavitt ordered Hiko to serve 10 to 25 years behind bars for the slaying and a separate robbery at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas in 2016.
The sentence was the result of a negotiation Hiko and his lawyer made with prosecutors.
Brill was attacked and shot in the back of the head in 2009 outside a house party on Beesley Drive, near Charleston and Nellis boulevards.
Witnesses told police at the time that a male approached Brill and another young man, pulled out two handguns and shot them. The other victim survived.
Moore, Wash and Phillips are awaiting trial on charges of murder with a deadly weapon, attempted murder with a deadly weapon, assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit robbery and robbery with a deadly weapon.
The killers got away with $20 and a broken cellphone. Brill carried only a list of books he wanted to read and things he wanted to accomplish.
Brill-Kelley said her son had a passion for science and computers and loved making friends and family laugh.
His aunt, Kathleen Kennedy, recalled sitting by his hospital bedside as he died.
“I wonder what Aric would have become,” she said. “I know he would have been a helper.”