Tragedy inspires daughter's battle against domestic violence

Tragedy inspires daughter's battle against domestic violence »Play Video
BELLEVUE, Wash. -- It takes a special kind of courage for Maddy Brockert to walk down the halls of Newport High School in Bellevue.

This isn't her school, but she's about to own the room.

"My name's Maddy Brockert," she begins. "I'm a senior at Sammamish High School and I'm going to talk to you guys about domestic violence."

In a presentation that weaves facts and statistics with heartwrenching details, Maddy tells her story. She tells her mother's story.

"My mom, on May 24th of 2011, after dating her boyfriend for two years was brutally beaten to death," she said.

Maddy's mom, Susan Brockert, was on the trip of lifetime. Her employer, Woodinville based merchandizing company BDA, rewarded her years of service with a paid vacation in Hawaii.

After a night of dinner, drinks and celebration, Susan and her boyfriend returned to their hotel room, where Howie Zimmerman barricaded the door and beat Susan to death.

Friends heard Susan screaming.

"I got there right after they had broken the door down," said company CEO Jay Deutsch. "And, uh ... Susan. I'm holding Susan. I saw something I wish I could forget every day of my life."

Deutsch sent word back to Susan's family in Seattle. Maddy's father pulled her from class to break the news.

"He just said, 'Mom died.' And those were the only words he said. I literally screamed and hit the floor." she said.

But then, within minutes of learning her was mother gone with no goodbye, no chance to save her, Maddy went from completely devastated to incredibly angry.

"I said, this makes me want to do something," she said. "This makes me want to do something about it."

Maddy channeled her anger and energy, and enrolled in specialized volunteer training with LifeWire, a domestic violence support agency. She became a voice for teenagers.

"I've had kids say, 'Holy crap, this presentation made me realize I'm dealing with domestic violence,' in some way at home or in a teen dating relationship, and they're like, 'Can you help me get out of it?'" she said.

In two years, she has reached 2,100 kids in 73 classrooms, including Barbara Veletegui's health class at Newport High, where domestic violence prevention has been part of of the curriculum since the 1970's. Over those decades, there are some students you just don't forget, including Maddy's mom, Susan Brockert.

Susan was a standout athlete and student at Newport. Velategui can't go back in time and talk to her former student, but she can work towards the future.

"If we reached one student today and Maddy has helped one student break free, then for today, that's enough. That's just enough," Velategui said.

Susan's story resonates back at her workplace, too. Her employers started a foundation called BDA Cares - in two years raising half a million dollars to fight domestic violence. The company is ready to back Maddy's efforts too, but she soars on her own.

"Her going out and telling her story to kids and saying you have a voice, there is something you can do about it. Share my mom's story because maybe it will save you and your parent, that's all Maddy," Deutsch said.

Maddy's mother didn't see her get her driver's license. She won't see her daughter off to college. But maybe Susan Brockert sees something bigger.

"I hope she sees through her story, we're helping people. Together," Maddy said. "She's helping me do this. She's giving me the strength to do this everyday, every time in front of a class, she's giving me the strength to do this."

It is a special strength passed from mother to daughter. It is a trait and a gift that can't be taken away.

"I hope my mom's proud. First and foremost, I hope my mom's proud," she said.

Zimmerman was convicted of Susan's murder and is serving a life sentence, plus 20 years for kidnapping.