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October 30, 2014

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Five years later, spirit of slain teenager lives on through his donated organs

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Mona Shield Payne

Kevin, left, and Don Brill, the brother and father of Aric Brill, admire a homemade, patchwork quilt hung in Aric’s honor during a ceremony at the UMC Transplant Center on Friday, Feb. 21, 2014.

Organ Donation Ceremony for Aric Brill

Karen Brill stands with her son, Kevin, listening to speakers during a ceremony celebrating the life of her younger son 16-year-old Aric Michael Brill, who donated six organs following his homicide five years ago, at the UMC Transplant Center Friday, February 21, 2014. Launch slideshow »

Aric Brill read chemistry books and medical journals as a 7-year-old, exuding a never-ending thirst for information that continued into his teen years.

He wanted to understand cosmic activity, energy distribution and computer science.

He knew it wouldn’t happen overnight, so he kept lists — lots of lists — in his wallet, in his bedroom and everywhere in between to keep track of all these goals.

“With all that knowledge, he was very aware of the effects these things had on the quality of life here on earth,” said his mother, Karen Brill. “He became a very compassionate human being.”

Brill’s quest to learn was cut short Feb. 20, 2009, when he was shot to death at age 16 during an apparent robbery in Las Vegas. The homicide remains unsolved.

On Friday, friends and family gathered at UMC’s Center for Transplantation to remember the academically gifted teen who, in his final act on earth, gave the ultimate gift by donating six organs: his heart, liver, pancreas, lung and two kidneys.

“It’s hard to put into words exactly what this gift means that others so dearly wait for, but Aric really embodies this spirit of what we all stand for at the Nevada Donor Network,” said Joe Ferreira, president and CEO of the organ-transplantation nonprofit.

Last year, the Nevada Donor Network recovered organs from 104 donors, a 96 percent increase from 2011.

As Brill’s mom spoke, Becky Mintz, 49, dabbed tears with a tissue in the audience. She never knew Brill, but as a heart transplant recipient, any ceremony honoring an organ donor hits home.

“No matter what you hear, organ donation does work,” she said. “No matter how many organ donors there are, there are never enough.”

Attendees said they hoped that in addition to increasing awareness for organ donation, the ceremony would renew interest in the cold case.

The shooting happened on Beesley Drive, off Charleston Boulevard in the eastern valley, as Brill and several friends walked to a birthday party. In front of the residence, four or five black males sitting on a fence stopped them, demanding money and belongings while threatening to shoot.

Brill and his friend, Joseph Bentley, were shot as they tried to flee. Bentley survived.

Metro Police detectives exhausted countless leads shortly after the slaying but continue to investigate despite a lack of strong recent tips, said Lt. Ray Steiber of the department’s homicide section.

“We were never able to build enough probable cause to effect an arrest,” he said.

Steiber said he believes partygoers or people outside that night have information — perhaps just small details — that could lead to police identifying the shooter.

Karen Brill said, five years later, she is just beginning to heal from losing her son. She can actually smile when talking about Aric, as opposed to suffering a panic attack.

Emotional healing won’t stop her from seeking her son’s killer, though.

“One day, they will be looking me in the eye,” she said. "I will never quit looking for them, and I will find them. They can’t stay lucky forever.”

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