By Lauren Willins
This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class.
Brittany Seidenstricker’s favorite memory of her cousin is him dyeing her hair blue and giving her a Mohawk.
Michael Siegrist, Mike for short, was like a brother to her, she said.
“I remember that grin,” Seidenstricker said. “I miss his smile and laugh the most.”
On July 13, 2013, Michael was shot and killed trying to defend his girlfriend from a robbery at a bus station on Harlow Street. His girlfriend worked at the Steel Pony as a bartender. Michael and his girlfriend were walking home from a party after work when they stopped at the bus stop to rest. An unidentified person walked up to them and demanded his girlfriend’s purse. She agreed to give him the purse but Michael attempted to fight back. He was then shot once in the ensuing action. The girlfriend was unharmed. His murder remains unsolved.
As children, Michael would often jump on the trampoline and help Seidenstricker perform tricks. He looked out for Seidenstricker, protecting her from her half-siblings. They would often torment her for fun. To Seidenstricker, he and his brother Vincent were more like brothers to her than her own family.
“He was known for protecting people,” Seidenstricker said. “He was always my protector.”
Vincent Siegrist, Michael’s brother, said that he was an honest individual who always tried to help out.
“He would always do something about it,” Siegrist said.
To Siegrist, Michael was a nice and polite person.
“He was kind of like my mom and I was like my dad,” Siegrist said. “He was the nicer brother.”
Michael was a people person, always traveling with someone. He was a heavy metal lover and liked listening to his favorite band, The Misfits. He was able to light up a room just by his presence.
That’s what makes his family miss him all the more. Seidenstricker remembers that she collapsed when she heard the news. She did not find out until the afternoon of the day after he died because her father did not want to tell her. Michael’s death changed her forever, she said.
“I worked at Daily’s,” Seidenstricker said. “I always wondered if I helped the killer or told him to have a good day.”
Every time she would see a man who matched the description of the killer, she said, she would think that would be the man. She said that she had to force herself to stop.
“I had to stop because I wanted to be the person Michael was,” Seidenstricker said. He would always tell her to keep her head up and to keep going.
Vincent’s life was irreversibly changed as well. He was at his father’s house when he heard the news.
“I felt like it wasn’t real,” Siegrist said. “I’d never think that he would get shot.”
Siegrist wanted to blame Michael’s girlfriend for what happened, but in the end, he knew it wasn’t her fault. Her role in what happened tore people apart, Siegrist said.
“I’m not friends with people anymore,” he said. “Some of them blame her for what happened.”
Michael’s death has left an unfillable hole in everybody’s life.
Siegrist chooses not to think about it often.
“I miss seeing his face,” he said. “I miss the brother comraderie. I lost my only brother.”
Seidenstricker chooses to remember him for who he was and not the violent action that took him away.
“He never seemed sad,” she said. Michael was always cracking stupid jokes, she said, and he would help anybody in need.
“I knew Michael would have wanted [us] to move on,” Seidenstricker said.
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