Kick Stop

When Luyen Nguyen was stomped to death 15 years ago, five men were locked up - but was justice served?

Pam and Jerry have been visiting Brad in prison for 15 years, at a half-dozen facilities around the state before he was put in South Bay in 2002. He calls them collect every night, they say; they won't go out in the evening until they hear he's safe. They say they've spent at least $100,000 on lawyers and investigators; their retirement savings are gone now.

Pam says that all her life she'd wanted to go whitewater rafting. She finally went after Brad was sent away, but she quit before the first rapids. She couldn't risk it. "I have to stay alive to fight for Brad," she says.

"If my son had done this, I'd be putting flowers on [Nguyen's] grave site every day. But he didn't kill that boy."

Pam and Jerry Mills
Pam and Jerry Mills

Maybe if Brad hadn't gone to trial first, or so quickly... Pam and Jerry have had plenty of time for second-guessing, too. Didn't each trial get easier after Brad's? Jerry wonders. Did the state stop caring as much? Was it the cost? Was it that public opinion was appeased, or people just forgot?

In subsequent trials, attorneys for three of the other accused would get their clients' statements to police suppressed. Judge Eade would rule that Detective Milford improperly used threats and promises to try to get confessions from the other teens. By 1995, when the last set of defendants were on trial, Milford wasn't called to testify. He'd been demoted that year for allegedly pushing a teenager's head against the wall after the youth insulted Milford's son. Milford, who was promoted this year to captain with the Coral Springs Police Department, declined to comment for this story.

Attorneys for later defendants also picked apart the medical examiner's testimony, forcing Dr. Wright to retreat from his theory that every blow contributed to a stunning effect that disoriented Nguyen. Since Nguyen was able to run from his assailants at one point during the fight, Wright said that the first few slaps and punches likely didn't stun him and contribute to his death. Wright also said that Nguyen may have had alcohol in his system at the time of the attack. That was new.

After Mills' trial, four men were prosecuted together in 1994. This time the jury was concerned about the impact of each individual blow on Nguyen. Still, the four were convicted. Jury foreman Michael Carroll later complained to the Sun-Sentinel that the defendants should not have been lumped together like co-conspirators. "We've got two kids that shouldn't be guilty of [second-degree murder], it should be manslaughter," he said. "It's very disturbing."

William Madalone, who had given a graphic confession to police, was sentenced by Judge Eade to life. Terry Jamerson, who admitted only to pushing Nguyen, got 22 years; he's been out since 2003. Chris Madalone, who pled guilty, got 16 years; he was released in 2000. And Chris Anderson, whose slap initiated the fight, got 13 years; he's been free since 1999.

The last two criminal defendants came before Eade in 1995. Derek Kozma's confession, in which he told police that he kicked Nguyen in the head four times, was thrown out; the jury acquitted him. A few months later, Kozma was charged with splitting the head of another teenager with a beer mug; he pled guilty to aggravated battery.

The last defendant, Michael Barychko, says he caved under police pressure and admitted to kicking Nguyen when he actually had only nudged the young man's still body with his foot, to see if he was OK. On the stand, Barychko looked straight at Luyen Nguyen's mother and said that another youth, Dave Michaelson, kicked her son in the head as he lay on the ground, helpless. Barychko had told police the same thing years earlier, but Michaelson was never criminally charged. Barychko was convicted of aggravated battery and sentenced to 18 months in prison. He served several years probation in lieu of jail time. In 1997, a jury found him not liable in a negligent death suit brought by the Nguyens. The young man he had fingered as possibly dealing the lethal blow, Dave Michaelson, settled a civil suit with the Nguyens for $100,000.

Barychko, now 34, still insists that he witnessed the killing blow. "I saw a kid lying on the grass, and people running from the body. I tapped him on the back to see if he was moving. I said, 'Hello? Are you OK? Hello?' I was standing over him when Dave Michaelson kicked him in the head. I said, 'What did you do that for?'"

Michaelson could not be reached to comment for this story.

Witnesses pegged the number of attackers at perhaps a dozen. "Today I still believe that there were others involved," says Magrino, the prosecutor. "Were we successful in getting the main players? Yes... If you see a wrong, you right it. Otherwise you become a part of it."

Barychko says the police investigation was a clumsy witch hunt. Teens vouched for their friends and accused others that they didn't like, he says. "Justice wasn't done."

Brad Mills agrees. "This is Coral Springs: big money," he says. "Police had to make a move. I don't believe they cared one bit about getting the right people."

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