HOUSTON On any given day, you will find the Hardin family at Brookside Cemetery, the final resting place of their loved one, Steven Hardin.
Hardin was shot and killed in April of 1998 as he tried to tow an illegally parked truck.
The man who pulled the trigger, former firefighter Barry Crawford, claimed it was in self-defense, but a jury convicted him of first-degree murder.
Right after Steven was killed, I had nightmares all the time because I couldn t save him, Tanya Hardin, Steven s sister, said.
Crawford was sentenced to 10 years probation for the slaying.
The only closure I ve ever seen in my son s case was when he was lowered in the ground and they closed his casket, and that s the only closure I will ever see, Carolyn Hardin, Steven s mother, said.
Crawford s probation came with many terms and conditions, from carrying a sign declaring himself a murderer to paying restitution.
The last payment was a check for a buck twenty-four. How do you even have the gall to send somebody a check for $1.24? victims rights advocate Andy Kahan said.
There have been heated moments in the Hardin-Crawford case over the years as it played out in court, but when a judge dismissed a motion to revoke Crawford s probation earlier this year, it was the final blow. At least, that s what the Hardins thought.
He hasn t done any community service anything he s supposed to do, he hasn t done, Carolyn Hardin said.
But then in June, a letter came in the mail, addressed to Steven Hardin himself.
Stating that Barry Crawford had successfully completed his terms of probation, Carolyn Hardin said.
A letter addressed to her deceased son was advising Steven that the person that murdered him was no longer on probation, Kahan said.
The letter went on to advise Steve dead for more than a decade that no actions on his part were necessary.
Now how do you define success when someone owes over $16,000 in restitution, over $8,000 in fines and court costs to the county, neglected to do 390-plus community service hours, yet by definition he successfully completed his probation? This is living proof that criminal justice and logic are oxymoronic terms, Kahan said.
But if that could happen to the Hardins, has it happened to others?
The answer wasn t so easy to obtain.
11 News filed an open records request with the Harris County Community Supervision and Corrections Department seeking a list of everyone who s discharged their community supervision while still owing restitution in the last five years.
The department said it can t release the information without the consent of the court.
At the time this story aired, we were still waiting for that consent. So was Kahan.
I ve tried to make attempts to get information, and my attempts have always been rebutted that the information has been deemed confidential. That it s part of the judicial record, and that record is exempt from public disclosure, Kahan said.
As for Barry Crawford, 11 News would have liked to share his side of the story, but he didn t respond to requests for an interview.
If he was man enough to shoot my brother and take my brother s life that day, he should have been man enough to stand up and pay for what he did, Tanya Hardin said.
Kahan and the Hardins plan to lobby state lawmakers next year to force probationers to fulfill their obligations, like other states have done.
Hopefully the Hardins and Crawford himself, in an ironic twist, can be a catalyst for change, Kahan said.
But as of now, it seems the fight is far from over.