By Jean Cole
One year ago today, Brandon Hydrick and his brother Ryan were lost in Limestone County in the early morning hours when a man, fearful of thieves, shot into their truck with a high-powered rifle.
The bullet pierced the cab and struck Brandon. He died in Ryan’s arms.
Today, Brandon’s family and friends are holding a hike and picnic to celebrate his life and love of nature. It will be held at 1:30 p.m. at the Land Trust’s Three Caves and held by the Huntsville Young Professionals. The public is invited.
“Brandon loved the outdoors and the Land Trust,” said Brandon’s girlfriend, Bronwen Murray. “In fact, their fundraiser, “Moon Over Three Caves,” was the last event he and I attended together before he was murdered.”
Brandon, 26, of Athens, worked for Halo Monitoring in Huntsville, where he set up health-monitoring devices for the elderly and homebound. He had earned an associate degree, and planned to earn a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Alabama – Huntsville.
One of Brandon’s loves was soccer. His father Phillip, a soccer coach at Sparkman High School, taught all three of his children to play soccer at an early age.
“Brandon had been playing since he was four,” said his sister, Jessica Hydrick Nichols, following his death. “He was part of the Huntsville Men’s Soccer League.”
Another of Brandon’s loves was Bronwen, whom he knew for about a year. She learned to love the outdoors with him.
“Brandon was a true nature lover and was up for anything outdoors — hiking, camping, soccer, running — as long as it was in the great wide open,” Bronwen said. “While I had never camped before meeting Brandon, and didn't consider myself much of an outdoorsy person, after he introduced me to it, I found I really liked it. In particular, we loved camping and hiking on Piney Creek, which runs through my family's farm in Limestone County.”
She fell in love with his kindness and his sense of adventure.
“I first felt like I was in love with him fairly early on, when we were on a movie date to Monaco (in Huntsville),” she said. “When we left the theater, it was cold outside and had started to rain. I made a sour face, so he took off his coat, wrapped me in it and cartwheeled down the steps outside the building into the rain. That was the type of person he was. Incredibly giving, kind and warm, and also the first to dive into any adventure.”
Brandon and Ryan had attended a bonfire and marshmallow roast on property owned by family friends in the early morning hours of Sept. 29, 2012. When the gathering ended, they dropped off a friend at his campsite and started home. Unfamiliar with the area, the brothers got turned around and ended up on Fennell Lane, a dead-end road in the Belle Mina area of southern Limestone County.
Their sister, Jessica, said Ryan told her they had tried to use their cellphones to call for assistance but could not get any service.
Nearby on Fennell Road, Joel Moyers, 52, who was living in a trailer owned by his mother of Cullman, saw the truck in the dark early morning and thought it looked suspicious, Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely said the day of the shooting.
Worried about thefts in the area and thinking the men were up to no good, Moyers grabbed his high-powered rifle and went outside to follow the truck on foot, the sheriff said.
The truck, driven by Ryan, remained on Fennell Lane for about 10 minutes and then turned and came back in Moyers’ direction, the sheriff said. Moyers shined a flashlight and tried to get the occupants to stop so he could get a tag number, Blakely said.
Seeing the gun and feeling unsure of what Moyers wanted, Ryan sped away down the adjacent Fennell Road, Jessica said.
Moyers told investigators at the scene he then fired a “warning shot” into the air as the truck drove away. However, a round hit the tailgate, pierced the cab and the seat, and then struck Brandon in the back, the sheriff said.
The Hydrick brothers were trying to find their way home when the nightmare unfolded. They were not thieves.
What: Hike, picnic to celebrate Brandon Hydrick’s life
When: 1:30 p.m. Sunday, lasting about 2 hours
Where: Meet at the Land Trust parking lot
Who: Open to the public
Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/events/572765099427431/