MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Imagine someone right behind you, yelling your name, but you could not hear them. That is what it has been like for Stephen Brodie … until Monday afternoon. The Starkey Foundation flew Brodie to Minneapolis from Dallas to see if there was anything they could do to help him hear.
Brodie was easy to spot at the airport, wearing a cowboy hat and a smile. When asked how he felt, he said one word: “Happy.”
Brodie is deaf and used to wear a hearing aid. “They gave me one, but I lost it a week later,” he said. “They could give me no more. I had to wait two years to get another one.”
The “they” he was talking about are Texas prison officials. When Brodie was 19, he was arrested and convicted of raping a 5-year-old girl. But the thing is, he did not commit the crime. Police questioned him for 18 hours, most of the time without an interpreter. Brodie said that he confessed to ripping off a vending machine, but never to hurting a child. He has been behind bars on-and-off ever since.
More than once, Brodie refused to register as a sex offender. So, he kept being sent back to prison.
Brodie was finally exonerated in September.
While Brodie got his hearing tested on Wednesday, he said that he was not mad about what happened to him. “I gave all my burdens to God to take care of the burdens for me,” he said.
Brodie may have passed his troubles to a higher power, but on a chilly afternoon in Minnesota, he got a little help with one of them. “I’m like a painter without a canvas if I don’t have a guy like Stephen to say, ‘There, I’ve done something. I’ve created better hearing,'” said Bill Austin, the founder of Starkey Labs and the Starkey Hearing Foundation.
The Starkey Labs team cannot help Brodie’s left ear, but they are working on an aid for the right one. “If I can get a hearing aid, I’ll be able to talk on the phone,” Brodie said. “I used to talk on the phone before, but now, I couldn’t. If I get this, I’ll be able to talk on the phone.”
When he arrived in Minnesota, Brodie heard only silence. But not anymore. Now, he can hear himself — and everyone else. Life is going to be a lot easier for Brodie, although he will still have to do some lip-reading.
And, thanks to DNA evidence, the real rapist is now in jail on a $350,000 bail. He faces life in prison.