BRUNSWICK, Ga. — "We believe his death was not in vain."
That's what Ahmaud Arbery's paternal aunt told 11Alive Monday in an exclusive interview.
Thea Brooks said the trial leading up to closing arguments has been exhausting for the family. Brooks added being at the Glynn County Courthouse is not only emotionally draining, but it also brings up a lot of sadness. She says no matter the outcome, she knows she'll never see her nephew again.
“It’s been an emotional roller coaster," Brooks said.
A few miles away, Brooks prayed throughout the day.
“I’m anxious. I’m nervous," Brooks said.
Brooks is anxious because this case will now rest in the hands of the jury.
“I’m hoping that they go home, because they’re not sequestered, and they think about, 'What if it were their loved one?' Being in our shoes, how would they feel?” Brooks said.
She shared the hardest moment so far in this trial.
“I think the hardest day for the family was day eight when we had to sit and witness the medical examiner’s information and watch the photos immediately after Ahmaud looked when he was killed," Brooks said.
Brooks recalls Arbery as someone who spent a lot of time with his family and was especially close to his mother.
“He was humble. He stayed to himself," Brooks said. "He had a great smile. He wasn’t a stranger to strangers.”
Brooks remembers her nephew as she wears a necklace with his picture. It reads the words "never forgotten."
“I’m just really praying that the right decision is made and that we can go ahead and go into this Thanksgiving being thankful that this is done, that we got the right verdict, and that we can move forward and start closing this chapter of our lives," Brooks said.
Arbery's aunt said he had big plans for his future. He wanted to go to college to become an electrician.