Brandy Dowdy’s living room on West Crosswinds Court in the Flat Rock area looks like any other — there is a couch and other furniture pieces, television set, pictures on the walls, etc.
However, one item in the room stands out in a peculiar sense: a wooden and glass display case occupying a corner, which a visitor normally would expect to see filled with some type of collectible — only the one in the Dowdy home is noticeably empty.
Less than two months ago, that case contained an array of knives and other items that had been painstakingly amassed by Aaron Dowdy during his short life. Aaron, the son of Tim and Brandy Dowdy, died from an epileptic seizure in the Mount Airy High School gym in October 2012 at age 19.
Aaron, who also suffered from mild autism, would have turned 21 years old on Saturday.
Losing a son can be devastating enough, but the pain associated with Aaron’s death intensified on June 25, when family members returned home from a beach trip. They discovered that the residence had been forcibly entered and items stolen including Aaron’s knife collection that he had lovingly mounted in the display case for all to admire.
“He had a nice collection,” Donna Brown, Aaron’s aunt and sister of Brandy, said of an array including swords, daggers and a special souvenir, a Dale Earnhardt Sr. commemorative pocketknife once owned by a great-grandfather, the late Earl Hiatt.
“He had a whole case of knives — it was a cabinet full and they cleaned it out,” Brown said of those who committed the break-in, which also netted Aaron’s coin collection.
She admitted that dollar-wise, those belongings were “not of great value.” But from a sentimental standpoint they were invaluable — “it was all she (Brandy) had left of him.”
“They took all his electronics,” Aaron’s mother said of other property stolen. “Thank God they missed his class ring.”
That item will be hard to steal from now on, though, because Brandy Dowdy is wearing the ring from Mount Airy High — set with a peridot, the August birthstone of Aaron — in a chain around her neck.
Brown said the thieves also overlooked items that her nephew had collected as a result of his interest in martial arts.
“They missed his nunchucks and his throwing star,” she said of two pieces still mounted on the living room wall, “and that really surprised me.”
The list of valuables taken would have been greater but for a particular trait of her son’s, Brandy Dowdy said, a tendency to not surround himself with many belongings. “He was a minimalist,” she explained.
No Arrests Made
The break-in at the Dowdy residence is not the only one that has occurred in the same general neighborhood in recent weeks.
There have been at least three places hit, “so far that I know of,” Brown said, noting that the two others were abandoned homes.
A detective with the Surry County Sheriff’s Office has been investigating the crimes, but so far issued no charges despite two suspects being developed.
Those individuals — a woman in her 20s and a man thought to be in his early 30s — became persons of interest due to talk in the neighborhood. The woman allegedly has bragged about selling property stolen from the Dowdy home and using the money to go on a shopping spree with the male involved.
Brandy Dowdy said that account was “heartbreaking” and has made her feel “disgusted.”
“Every time I think about it, I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach,” said the local mom, who has one other child, a son who is 25 and lives in Greensboro.
Aaron had graduated from Mount Airy High and was enrolled in the Creating Successful Learners (CSL) program of Surry Community College at the time of his death.
He collapsed while shooting baskets with other developmentally disabled students of the SCC program in the MAHS gym on Oct. 24, 2012 and became unresponsive. Despite initial CPR by college personnel and efforts of paramedics who arrived, the youth was pronounced dead at Northern Hospital of Surry County.
Aaron’s obituary says he “had a brilliant mind and was a caring, loving soul.”
“He wanted to be a cop,” Brandy Dowdy said of a desire that surfaced when Aaron was just 4 years old.
Dowdy and Brown are hoping that the Surry Sheriff’s Office steps up the investigation of the theft and makes arrests. And while that won’t bring back her son, it at least will serve to bring those responsible to justice for stealing items he owned which the family considered priceless.
“He loved Mount Airy,” Dowdy said.
“And seeing him ripped off that way is just heartbreaking.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.