Steve Pill is doing the things he and his wife of 31 years always planned to do when they retired, but he is doing them alone.
Every trip to the grocery or hardware store reminds him of his wife, Barbara Pill, the Brevard County sheriff’s deputy fatally shot during a traffic stop one year ago Wednesday.
Over their three decades of marriage, Steve and Barbara planned to retire and then buy, renovate and sell homes. Since his wife’s death, Steve has purchased three project homes; one closed last week. He knows Barbara probably wouldn’t approve of the “cabbage something or other” green he painted in one kitchen.
“If she was here, she’d be helping me,” he said in an interview with Local 6 News partner Florida Today. “I would have someone that could help me do the color coordinating better ... She always said I have no color-coordination gene in my body.”
Signs of Barbara are all around his own Palm Bay home: a shadow box with her badge and the flag that covered her casket, a poster and quilt with pictures of her smiling. The outgoing message on the answering machine still has Barbara’s voice.
Steve finds it comforting, though not all family members feel that way.
“I’ve still got Barb’s voice on the answering machine, and (her father) won’t call the house,” he said. “It just, it brings back the loss of his daughter. His only daughter.”
Steve’s eyes betray his tough appearance, watering as he talks about Barbara. He’s tried packing some of her clothes from their bedroom closet, but can’t bring himself to get rid of them.
His voice caught at times as he remembered the deadly events of March 6, 2012, and when he talked about his 2-year-old granddaughter, who will never get to know her grandmother.
“That bothers me a lot,” he said, standing in the garage where he’s growing several potted orchids — one of Barbara’s favorite flowers — all offshoots of the first plant the couple was given as a wedding gift nearly 32 years ago.
Barbara Pill, 52, was the first Brevard County law enforcement officer to be shot and killed in the line of duty in 16 years.
“Everyone misses Barbara,” Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey said. “She wasn’t just a great deputy, she was a special friend to lot of people in our community ... All of us take that special memory of Barbara and use that to drive us in the job we do.”
Her life will be honored at the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office north precinct in Titusville, a new facility to be named after her. A groundbreaking ceremony and moment of silence at 11:13 a.m. — the minute Barbara was shot — are planned for Wednesday.
“Just having it named after her means a lot, means a lot to me and the boys,” Steve said. “Everything that’s been done through the Sheriff’s Office and through the public themselves, what they’ve done, has just been phenomenal.”
Both of the Pills’ sons, Jeremy and Ryan, work for the Sheriff’s Office. At the time of his mother’s death, Ryan Pill worked for Melbourne Village Police Department. He was hired by the Sheriff’s Office in May, and now patrols the same precinct his mother worked.
“Every day I tell him, be careful out there,” Steve said. “Both of them.”
Steve said both men emulate their mother in their proactive approach. He said it’s hard for the boys to talk about their mother’s death.
“They miss her tremendously and so do I,” Steve said. “We were all very close, so that part is a big void. But we all know that we have to go on with our lives.”
Steve tries to keep busy to avoid constantly thinking about the events that devastated his family, the Sheriff’s Office and the entire Brevard community one year ago. Not all days are easy.
“There’s mornings I get up that it takes me a little bit to get motivated to do anything,” he said. “That’s one thing, Barb, at least I had somebody to push me. ‘You gotta get this done.’”
He’s anticipating the trials of Brandon L. Bradley, 23, and Andria M. Kerchner, 22, who are accused of murder, robbery and other counts in the deputy’s death. The duo is accused of stealing items from a Melbourne area motel before they were stopped by Pill. Bradley allegedly opened fire. His companion, Kerchner, was in the passenger seat.
Attorneys on each case said a trial could be a year or more away. Randy Moore, chief assistant public defender who is working on Bradley’s case, said after a hearing last month it is possible the trial may be moved to another county in order to get an unbiased jury.
Steve said he’d like to see Kerchner, who was a passenger in the car when Barbara was shot, get life in prison.
“It will be some closure once I know that they’ve been found guilty and convicted,” he said. “That will be a big step in closure.”
“Him, I’d like to see the death penalty, which is what they’re going for. He had no remorse for her life of anybody else’s, so I don’t feel sorry for him.