Five months have passed since J.D. Aylward was left to die in a Bellevue street and detectives still don’t know what happened to him.
“I’m alive, so that’s the important thing,” says Aylward, a popular 24-year-old former Sammamish High and Boise State football player.
He went to a wedding with friends on the evening of September 22, 2012 and ended up at The Munchbar, a popular Bellevue Square nightspot which has been permanently closed following a fatal shooting Christmas Eve.
The last text from Aylward that night stated he was “kicking it with friends.” He doesn’t remember what happened next.
He was found in a pool of blood, badly beaten, unconscious, and nearly dead early the next morning.
At Harborview Medical Center, doctors immediately removed half of his skull to alleviate some of the brain swelling, it was that bad.
Family and friends kept an online journal of the medical procedures he was going through, documenting the rapid progress his body made as he healed. He has since read all of it.
“It was very strange. These are my friends and people I see all the time, and a lot of things they’re writing it’s like they’re never going to see me again,” Aylward says. “It was tough going through that, but it’s nice to see that they were all there.”
After weeks of being hooked up to machines and months of physical therapy, Aylward wants all those who cared about him – sending emails and letters of encouragement – to know, you don’t need to worry about him.
“What I didn’t want was for people to treat me differently because I was in that kind of situation, feeling bad for me. I’d see people and they’d be ‘oh, how are you doing’ with that (sympathetic) voice,” he says. “I don’t like people feeling sorry for me. I’m near the finish line.”
The finish line is having his skull reattached. That was supposed to happen this month, enabling him to be more independent and even go back to work. But the skull, in a freezer at Harborview since the attack, became infected. Doctors can’t use it.
“I don’t know how it works, but they’re building a new one. That takes a team so now there are more people involved and that takes more time,” says Aylward.
It’s not uncommon for bacteria to develop on bone stored for an extended period of time. In his case, a synthetic skull replacement must be used instead.
It’s a setback, but the young man won’t let it get him down.
“I’m not the kind of guy that’s looking for pity or anyone’s sympathy. That’s not what I’m about. You could feel sorry for yourself, and I did meet a few people like that through this. You could just sit around all day and say ‘I’m messed up and I’m not going to get better’ but that’s not me,” he says.
“I’ve been working hard at it and I just treat it like it’s nothing and that I’m going to be back to how I was before I got hurt. I just want to get back to normal, and I feel like I’m almost there in my mind.”
In Aylward’s mind, it’s best to move forward without trying to dwell too much on what have happened to him. Who might have beaten him? Why? How did he end up in the middle of the street?
He doesn’t remember any of it, and he doesn’t like thinking about it.
“I just try to leave it alone. It doesn’t get me anywhere just thinking about it, stirring around about it. I want to just not bring it up to myself because then I’ll be alone with my thoughts and that doesn’t do me any good. I don’t know what happened and that’s not going to change,” he says.
Although he’s moving forward, he does want the case solved.
“I’d like to see justice,” he pauses. “Definitely.”
The Bellevue Police Department tells me officially the case is still an open investigation.
The detective assigned to the case says he has nothing new to report and that they are, “still working it and following up on a few items.”
However, my sources – including one within the department – say there are two working theories.
One of Aylward’s friends did this to him, they suggest, and until that person comes forward there’s not much the police can do.
The other theory is that Aylward fell. In examining all the possibilities, they believe it’s possible the severe injuries – which included wounds to both his left eye and the back of his head – were from a fall.
By LINDA THOMAS
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