A jury has convicted two Tennessee men charged with killing a Fort Campbell solder who was giving them a ride home.
CLARKSVILLE, TENN. — Specialist Taylor Hotzoglou's last action alive was an act of kindness and generosity, words that epitomized his very being.
Hotzoglou, 22, was robbed and shot six times in the back on April 28, 2012, while giving two men a ride to a Victory Road home. Thursday, both men were convicted of second-degree murder and especially aggravated robbery by a Montgomery County jury.
While his family reveled in justice being served, their hearts hung heavy as they remembered a man known for common acts of kindness such as the one he performed the last night he was alive.
"I think what was most remarkable about Taylor is that he was a giver. He never expected anything in return. No matter what needed to be done, he wouldn't hesitate to help anybody," Greg Hotzoglou, his older brother, said. "It didn't matter the cost to him, time or money. He'd do it without hesitation. It's like that's what he was put on this earth for."
'One of the most selfless people'
Taylor Hotzoglou was a well-mannered, happy person and had a calm, humble disposition. He was also known as a jokester and had a sarcastic, yet funny sense of humor. Beyond all, he was a positive person who went out of his way to help others.
"I used to question him," Greg Hotzoglou said. "He'd do something really nice for someone. I would question why he would go out of his way for someone he didn't know. He helped the homeless, he never hesitated. He would say, 'Those are the people who need help the most.' He'd empty his wallet for folks on the street."
Several weeks before his death, Lethia Van Luven, his close friend, fussed at him for driving a stranger who needed a ride to the Interstate and buying him a meal before departing.
"He always said, 'What if it'd been me?'" Van Luven said. "I wasn't a part of Taylor's life for very long, but I feel blessed for the short time I had with him. He was one of the most selfless people. He cared for others and loved everyone. Even people who didn't deserve it."
At home in the military
Spc. Taylor Hotzoglou, a native of Rocky Point, N.Y., joined the Army at 18 years old, in the fall of 2008. After basic training, he was stationed at Fort Campbell. He was deployed for a year to Afghanistan during his service.
The military was a place he felt at home.
"As kids, we used to play Army-oriented video games," Gregory Hotzolgou said. "I think it put it in the back of his head. He was a big part of being a part of a cohesive unit. When you were a part of the Army, you stood for something. He enjoyed the camaraderie amongst his battle buddies. He liked the idea of everyone having each others' back. I think Taylor just wanted to help people."
Taylor was known for not only being kind and giving but having a positive outlook on life.
"He used to say to me all the time, 'A day might not be good, but there's something good about every day,'" his friend, Sara Smith, said.
He came from a blended family who loved him and the love he exuded.
"He was a very loving, caring son," his mother, Debra Hotzoglou, said. "On Mother's Day, he sent me flowers from Afghanistan. He had 'Loyalty, Trust and Respect' tattooed on his chest. He lived by those words."
Wishing there'd been more time
With tears, the family wish they could've had more time with Taylor Hotzoglou.
His brother Alex, expressed his desire to have just another day to show his love for his baby brother. He had become such a strong man, and his older brothers were looking forward to sharing adulthood with him.
It is the goofy jokes, sweet smiles and treasured memories of long summers and holidays together his large family will always cherish and hold onto.
As they awaited a verdict Thursday, the family looked through old family pictures, smiling through tears at the innocent smile of Taylor Hotzoglou.
With heavy hearts, they called him "their hero" and vowed to keep his memory alive.
"He always talked about his legacy and what he wanted to leave behind," his widow, Kerri Taylor, said. "He didn't want to be remembered. He wanted what he believed in to be remembered."