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Kocis’ parents still without closure

Published: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 4:06 AM EDT
The red tricycle he rode as a toddler still sits in the backyard. His award-winning photographs of abandoned coal buildings line the walls. His blue Maserati hat rests a few feet away from the dinner table.

Michael and Joyce Kocis’ two-story home in Larksville is filled with memories of their son, Bryan Charles Kocis. But the phone doesn’t ring with his calls. His newest car no longer pulls into their driveway. His voice doesn’t say “I love you,” before he leaves.

“He was a very loving and giving person,” Joyce Kocis said. “He wasn’t like the media portrayed him, as a gay pornography producer. That was not Bryan.”

Bryan Kocis was killed Jan. 24, 2007, at his Dallas Township home. Harlow Cuadra and Joseph Kerekes, who owned escort and gay pornography businesses in Virginia Beach, Va., are both serving life sentences for the murder. It was a calculated crime, prosecutors said, to eliminate Kocis, a competitor in the adult film world.

The highly publicized investigation of his murder has filled media accounts for the past two years, but somehow, Bryan Kocis, their Bryan Kocis, has been left out, his family says.

No mention of the brother, the son, the uncle, the man. Bryan Kocis, who donated heavily to charities. Bryan Kocis, who bought his mother a ring with his first paycheck as a newspaper boy for The Citizens’ Voice. Bryan Kocis, who saved his father from a heart attack during a hunting trip in 1980.

“I wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for him,” Michael Kocis said.

The first and only son of his parents, Bryan Kocis was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, on May 28, 1962. The family moved around before returning to Northeastern Pennsylvania, where both Michael and Joyce Kocis had family.

He was an active Boy Scout, earning the rank of Eagle. He was an honors student at Wyoming Valley West High School and graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology in 1984, where he studied photography.

He worked as a medical photographer after college, before starting his adult film company, Cobra Video, in 2001. That same year he faced charges when a potential actor lied about his age. He later pleaded guilty to corruption of minors.

Bryan Kocis shielded his family from his business. They knew about it, his parents say, but it was legal, and he wouldn’t let them know much more. After the 2001 incident, Bryan Kocis kept fastidious records. He promised his mother he would quit by 2008, after he saved enough money to build his dream house on the Ice Lakes in Rice Township, where he owned property. He also wanted to open a restaurant. He loved to cook fancy meals for his family — lobster dinners and Caesar salads.

If he were alive today, his parents are positive Bryan Kocis would be operating a restaurant.

“When he made a promise to his mother, he kept it,” Michael Kocis said.

But, as always, he gave money away almost as fast as he made it. In 2004 he surprised his parents and his sister’s family with a trip to New York City for the Fourth of July. They rode a white limousine to New York and he paid for rooms at The Plaza Hotel, making sure his parents stayed in a room featured in “The Sopranos,” his fathers’ favorite show.

“That’s just the way he was,” Joyce Kocis said. “We kept telling him Bryan, save up for your house, save it for your restaurant, but he wouldn’t listen.”

“I don’t even want to know what it cost him,” Michael Kocis said. “We’ll never do things like that again. He was just amazing. He did things we couldn’t dream of.”

It wasn’t just his family who benefited from his spirit. Bryan Kocis donated to Make-A-Wish, a battered women’s shelter, his alma matter and countless other charities. He helped a single mother one Christmas, who couldn’t afford presents for her kids. He knocked on the door and left the presents, never taking credit.

His parents only discovered a small portion of Bryan Kocis’ philanthropy after his death, they said, searching through thank you notes left in his house and receiving calls of condolences from recipients of his generosity.

“Bryan wouldn’t want that,” Joyce Kocis sobbed, stopping in the middle of her story. “There’s so many stories that could be told, but Bryan never wanted credit.”

“It’s who he was, dear,” Michael Kocis said. “It’s who he was.”

Since his death, Bryan Kocis’ family has spoken sparingly to the media. His sister Melody Bartusek called Bryan her “best friend” during Cuadra’s sentencing.

Her brother was a mentor to Bartusek’s son, who like his uncle received his Eagle Scout. Bryan Kocis was a doting uncle to her daughter, whom he called princess.

Bartusek and the Kocis family became familiar with the dark wooded benches of the Luzerne County courtroom in the past year. They never missed a single pre-trial hearing, sat through countless hours of testimony, only leaving when images of Bryan Kocis’ body were shown to jurors — that was too much to bear, Joyce Kocis said.

“Sitting in the courtroom, that to me was an ordeal,” Michael Kocis said. “You hear the lies, the lie after lie after lie. And the show. The dramatics that Cuadra himself put on that you know he was lying through his teeth when he was talking. To sit there and listen to that it’s all I could’ve done to explode.”

Joyce Kocis read a note Tuesday, thanking the various people who have helped bring her son’s killers to justice.

“A huge thank you for prosecution team, led by Michael Melnick, the detectives, the state troopers, the (Luzerne County) Sheriff’s office, the Dallas Township police and fire departments and all the witnesses,” she read. “They are without a doubt the very best, going the extra mile, spending all the extra time they did and giving up their family time. We never could have made it this far without them. Thank you to the exceptional help from the District Attorney’s Victims Resource Unit, the Victims Witness Center, and Attorney Michael Hudacek for all his advice and encouragement … Everyone was very caring and considerate to our needs and professional at what they do. They were always there for us, as well as family and friends.”

Bryan Kocis’ family is grateful for justice, but there is still pain.

Every Jan. 24 since her son’s death Joyce Kocis sits in her rocking chair next to the shrine of her son, where his ashes rest in a brass urn. She talks to her son, weeps for his loss. She was sitting in that chair, she believes, when her son was killed in 2007. On the anniversary of his death, Joyce Kocis holds her son’s blue Maserati hat. He wore that hat the last time she saw him, telling her one last time “love you, mom.”

“People say you now have closure,” Joyce Kocis said. “Justice. We have justice, but we don’t have closure. We don’t have him.”

cjones@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2110

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Reader Comments

The following are comments from the readers. In no way do they represent the view of citizensvoice.com.

Friend wrote on Mar 18, 2009 8:21 AM:

" My prayers and wishes go out to this family and the family of the killers. Alot of hurt and pain happened that day when he was killed for all that were involved. "

PAS wrote on Mar 18, 2009 9:30 AM:


Annie wrote on Mar 18, 2009 2:25 PM:

" Thank you Coulter Jones for writing this story. I do not know the Kocis family, but sympathize with them over losing their son and brother. (I was sickened when a columnist for your competition wrote two columns feeling sorry for Cuadra's mother and Cuadra himself. ) "

Melody wrote on Mar 18, 2009 6:54 PM:

" On behalf of the Kocis family, I would like to thank everyone for their kindness and sympathy it means so much. I would also like to thank Coulter Jones for a job well done!! "

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