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Five years after Brittany Stykes' death, parents struggle to keep faith alive

Posted at 11:02 PM, Aug 27, 2018

David Dodson's last birthday was Aug. 28, 2013. He hasn't had the heart to celebrate any more. Instead, the end of summer marks the anniversary of his 22-year-old daughter's death and another interminable year spent waiting for answers.

“We are stuck," his wife, Mary Dodson, said Monday. "We are stuck in that same spot. We are stuck in that day we lost our daughter."

Since the night Brittany Stykes died, the Dodsons have felt suspended in time -- always in the twilight, always haunted by the sound of sirens. They get out of bed, care for their granddaughter and change the flowers on her mother's grave but return each day to the same scene: The dinner table set for a three-person birthday party, the sky above United States route 68 purpling into darkness and unease curdling into terror as they hear the sirens down the road.

"I said, ‘Dave, something is not right,'" Mary Dodson said. "And Dave said, ‘I know.'"

David Dodson followed the sirens to the scene he said he already knew was waiting: Stykes shot dead inside her yellow Jeep and her daughter, 14-month-old Aubree, shot in the head. Stykes had been pregnant with another grandchild Dodson would never meet.

He hoped then he would quickly find out who was responsible. In the years since Stykes' death, the Dodsons have attempted to implicate their former son-in-law, Shane Stykes, who has in turn claimed he knows who killed his wife but declined to publicly name his suspect. No arrests have been made; no charges have been filed.

"You lose a lot of trust in the justice system right now," David Dodson said.

According to the Dodsons, Shane Stykes recently won an appeal to take possession of the yellow Jeep from Brown County authorities.

"I can't understand why a person would want this vehicle back knowing what happened in it," David Dodson said. "I would want it crushed."

His wife said she wants it treated as a crime scene and retained by the authorities until they learn who killed Brittany Stykes. She said she wants the truth for the sake of now-6-year-old Aubree, who is "smart as a little whip" and curious about her mother, and for her own peace of mind.

"I would hope there would be somebody out there, seeing and knowing our family and knowing what we have gone through … they would have enough love in their heart, left in their heart, that they would come forward," she said.

It can be hard, she admitted, to keep the faith after so long without visible progress in the case.

 "The honest thing is, you begin to doubt," she said. "I don’t want to doubt."

David Dodson said he's confident the culprit will someday face consequences for his daughter's death. He isn't sure if he'll live to see it.

"Eventually," he said. "Whether it's this life or judgement day, they are going to be held accountable."