NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – When 22-year-old Darryl Hawkins died, the one thing everyone seemed to mention was how close he and his sister were.

“We were very tight,” said Madelyn Clark.

His death in 2017 was sudden, tragic, and all over the news.

Darryl Hawkins (credit: Facebook)

Hawkins was one of eight people killed at a party in Plano, when the homeowner’s estranged husband showed up and started shooting.

“We still think about him every day. We love him,” she said.

Last year, she posted on his Facebook page, “Miss you, big brother.”

She was surprised, Wednesday, when her post got a response.

“We were wondering, is this real?” she said.

In North Richland Hills, Linda Pierce, an employee in the police department’s property room, had wondered for a couple of years about a class ring.

In 2018, a year after Hawkins’ death, it had been found on a suspect along with other stolen items.

“It meant something to someone,” she said.

No one had claimed the ring, though, and as part of standard procedure, it was eventually scheduled to be destroyed.

Pierce, though, put it aside, hanging on to it for an extra year.

Eventually, she asked if she could get some help on social media.

The police department posted pictures on Facebook with the message “Help us find Darryl!”, noting the name, school, and class year that appeared on the ring.

That’s how Pierce finally learned the ring had belonged to Darryl Hawkins.

Thinking about why she’d kept it safe so long, she grew emotional.

“It’s what I’d want someone else to do if they found something of mine,” she said, wiping away her tears.

Madelyn stopped by the police department Thursday and recognized the ring immediately.

“I know this ring like the back of my hand,” she said. “Actually having it in my hand, I felt like I got to connect again with my brother.”

Darryl Hawkins’ class ring returned to his family (credit: Hawkins family)

She doesn’t know how the ring ended up in a stranger’s possession, but her brother wore it constantly.

She realizes now it even appears prominently in the last picture they took together shortly before Hawkins died.

“Knowing this was his and he wore this, he wore this very often, it’s emotional, very emotional,” she said.

She is grateful, she says, to Pierce for keeping his ring and to everyone who helped connect it back to her family.

Any little piece of him she can still touch helps keep him close.

“Like two peas in a pod,” she recalled.

Even now, love binds them.

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