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What Happened (updated by Price Dempler, April 28, 2023)

Just after midnight on March 14, 2023, our 32 year old son Jeff Dempler and his long-time girlfriend Stephanie Brennan heard a noise outside their 2nd story bedroom window. They looked out the window to the street and saw a man breaking into his car (a 25 year old Subaru Impreza). There was also a black SUV with another man inside - presumably both men arrived in the SUV, one getting out to break into the car to steal it. Jeff and Steph both ran downstairs and out to the street. Jeff confronted the thief who was in the driver's seat of his running Subaru. Steph immediately ran to call 911.


Meanwhile, the man in the car pulled a gun and shot Jeff once in the chest. He fled the scene in the stolen car, leaving Jeff laying in the street. The black SUV took off as well. Steph had contacted 911 and then yelled for Miriam. Miriam and Steph were both with him as he lay in the street and he recognized them. He was placed in the ambulance. Steph had the amazing forethought to grab the footage from the security camera outside their window. Between the video and the detailed information, the police were able to immediately begin looking looking for the car. 

 

I had been reading, had my cochlear implant processors removed, hearing nothing.  I put my processors on (they are off for sleep). Miriam ran back into the house to get me. Miriam, Stephanie and I went outside and got into my truck to drive to the trauma center (30 minutes away!) where we eventually learned that despite all efforts Jeff had died in the ambulance. Our dear and wonderful friends, David and Judy Williams, drove to the trauma center, picked us up and drove us and my truck back home. During all of this, Steph's information enabled a huge and rapid search for the stolen car. Police located and chased the killer in the stolen car down 101 about 25 minutes south of Gilroy. They rolled out spike strips, contained the car and pulled the suspect out of the car to place him under arrest.

 

We returned from the trauma center around 2 or 3 in the morning. The police asked us to come to the police station for interviews. We learned not long after we returned home at 8am that not only was the first man captured, he eventually confessed to his crimes. The 27 year old killer is a career thief and drug addict who, along with a partner, steals cars and then removes and sells the catalytic converters. He is charged with murder, carjacking, with a host of other charges pending. He has been arraigned with no bail. The accomplice has not been found. We do not know what charges his accomplice will face. 

Jeff's body has been cremated. He was an organ donor but sadly too much time had passed following his death to harvest any organs or tissue. There was not a church or funeral service - rather, we are celebrating Jeff's life, once in June with close friends and again at a larger event being put on by friends of Jeff in the drift car racing community.

 

We are all stunned, devastated, angry and utterly numb by this completely senseless death. Matthew and Vanessa are here with us, Bryan and Erica are here, and David and Judy have been with us every step of the way. We have had a constant stream of visitors from Jeff's friends, visits and food from our neighbors and massive Facebook and SMS wishes. Other friends will be flying in. We have a room full of flowers with well wishes. The cards, letters and guestbook entries can be found here.

Final Thoughts

We are all getting by as best we can. We cry, we laugh, we shake our heads at the utter randomness and  futility of these events. We are not alone right now and we are so beyond grateful to everyone for the outpouring of love and support. We do not know what a future without Jeff looks like - that thought terrifies us. It is a gaping chasm of uncertainty. Jeff was a happy, outgoing and crazy talented person and his passion and exuberance for cars and all things mechanical unsurpassed. Jeff loved life, loved Steph deeply and was perpetually selfless. He touched so many lives and all of us are better for having known him. There really are not sufficient words to describe his nature and his impact to those around him. Our broken hearts, roiled stomachs and aching heads are in agony right now and tears are frequent. Hopefully time will help reduce the emptiness and prepare us for our changed lives ahead. Words cannot express the depth of the love lost or the love lived with Jeff.  

Links to News Reports

The incident was covered by a number of news sources - Here are links to a couple

NBC Bay Area News:

https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/south-bay/gilroy-homicide-car-thief/3180900/

Twitter Thread:
https://twitter.com/henrykleeKTVU/status/1635700041066381314

 

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