MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Imagine someone right behind you yelling your name, but you couldn’t hear them. That’s what it’s been like for Stephen Brodie … until Monday afternoon. The Starkey Foundation flew Brodie in 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. They could give me no more. I had to wait two years to get another one,” he said.
The “they” he’s talking about are Texas prison officials.
When Brodie was 19, he was arrested and convicted of raping a 5-year-old girl.
Thing is, he didn’t do it.
Police questioned him for 18 hours, most of the time without an interpreter.
Brodie said he confessed to ripping off a vending machine, but never to hurting a child.
He’s been behind bars on and off ever since.
More than once, he refused to register as a sex offender, so he was sent back to prison.
Brodie was finally exonerated in September.
While he got his hearing tested on Wednesday, he said he wasn’t mad about what happened to him.
“I gave all my burdens to God to take care of the burdens for me,” he said.
He 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 team can’t help Brodie’s left ear, but they’re 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, he heard only silence. Not anymore. Now Brodie can hear himself — and everyone else.
Life is going to be a lot easier for Brodie, although he’ll still have to do some lip-reading.
Thanks to DNA, the real rapist is now in jail on a $350,000 bail.
He faces life in prison.
Paula Engelking, Producer
WCCO-TV’s Frank Vascellaro Reports