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A troubled son gets his peace at last

A 22-year-old, beaten in a fight over a girl, dies. "I know he's with the Lord,'' his mother says.

By JAMIE JONES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 22, 2002


BROOKSVILLE -- She knelt and kissed him softly.

"Kevin, honey," Betty Malloy told her son. "The doctors have gone as far as they can. You've got a chance if you fight. You're strong, honey. It's all up to you."

A tear rolled down his cheek.

Mrs. Malloy felt weak. She fell to her knees in the hospital room. She reached for a trash can and vomited.

The call had come at about 6 a.m. Thursday. Mrs. Malloy learned that her middle son, 22-year-old Kevin, had been attacked and flown to Tampa General Hospital.

Authorities said a 19-year-old had beaten him in the middle of the night with a car part over a girl they had both dated. They said Jonathan Ryan Patton planned to bury Kevin in his back yard but instead called 911.

Authorities said Kevin was in critical condition. Doctors did not know if he would make it.

After Mrs. Malloy hung up the phone, she said, she had a vision.

She saw her son standing in heaven. He was looking at his grandmother, who reached out her arms and screamed his name.

Kevin had not been the easiest child, Mrs. Malloy recalled. He was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and bipolar personality disorder.

For Kevin, being alive was hard, Mrs. Malloy said.

He got into fights at school and got arrested. He was a daredevil. He would climb on playground equipment at the city park and flip to the ground to impress the girls. He once went into the back yard and ate glass to get a laugh from his friends, Mrs. Malloy said.

Just two weeks ago, he climbed on top of a van rolling down the street. The driver hit a bump and Kevin flew into the woods, slamming into a stump that left a hole in his side, his mother said.

Mrs. Malloy once sent him to a camp for troubled youths, hoping he would calm down. He didn't. He dropped out of school in the 11th grade. He used drugs. He couldn't keep a regular job, she said. He drifted around and stayed with friends.

Sometimes, Mrs. Malloy wondered whether her son was meant to live. She had almost lost him during her pregnancy but prayed hard.

"I think God decided to let me have him for a while," Mrs. Malloy said.

She often worried when the telephone rang, fearing Kevin was in trouble. In some ways, she was not surprised by the call last Thursday.

Still, she hoped.

She sat beside his bed. She told him he was a special boy. She held his hand. "Fight, Kevin," she said.

Then that big tear fell down his cheek. And he was gone.

She stared at his face, severely beaten.

Her boyfriend, Robert Fisher, held Kevin's hand.

They sat for a while.

Later, Mrs. Malloy felt comforted when she donated her son's organs, as he had wanted. She heard his liver had been given to a 40-year-old man and that the surgery went well.

When she thinks back on all his suffering, Mrs. Malloy sometimes feels that her son's death was merciful.

"When Kevin was here, I worried all the time," she said. "I never got a good night's sleep. I'm not worried about Kevin anymore. I know he's not suffering. He's in heaven.

"He was misunderstood. He could not get a grasp on his life."

Mrs. Malloy said she is trying to forgive her son's attacker, Patton, who faces murder charges. He is being held in jail without bail.

"He has worse problems than my son," she said. "I want him in prison for the rest of his life. They have Bibles and preachers in prison."

Kevin once told his family that if he died, he wanted them to build a fire in the back yard, put meat on the grill and spend the night remembering.

On Saturday, they did just that. After sunset, they gathered around the fire, raised their arms to the sky and shouted Kevin's name.

Shortly after, they felt a light mist fall, Mrs. Malloy said.

"It's Kevin touching us, telling us he made it to heaven," one of his friends said aloud.

Mrs. Malloy thought so, too.

"I'm going to miss him," she said. "But I know he's with the Lord. I know he won't suffer anymore."

-- Staff writer Jamie Jones covers law enforcement and courts in Hernando County and can be reached at 754-6114. Send e-mail to jjones@sptimes.com.

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