Hilary Brasel honors her husband

Editor’s note: On Oct. 7, a Ramsey County District Court judge sentenced 17-year-old Kle Swee to nearly 26 years in prison for the May 6 murder of Michael Brasel a beloved St. Anthony Park man of many gifts – husband, father, residential carpenter and youth hockey coach.

Before Klee’s sentencing, Brasel’s widow Hilary read her victim’s impact statement to the court. Her statement has been slightly edited for space requirements with a few especially poignant sentences put in bold font.

“I want my words to honor the amazing man Michael was, and in my heart, the man Michael still is. I hope my words honor the genuine way Michael lived his life each day, and you can learn a bit more about the talented, unique, irreplaceable human he was. I want to describe how Michael’s murder has forever changed my life and the lives of our children.

Background on Michael

Michael Scott Brasel was known by many names: Michael, Mikey, Coach Brasel, Mister Michael, Dad and, by his mother, “Sweet Prince.”

Michael was raised in St. Paul in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood, attending St. Anthony Park Elementary School, Murray Junior High School and Cretin Derham Hall High School.

I first met Michael in a pottery class our freshman year at CDH, where even then, he stood out to me as a great artist and a genuine person. We parted ways when I switched high schools our sopho­more year, and we did not meet up again until college.

Michael went on to study at Minneapolis College of Art and Design, where he obtained a degree in illustration. I attended Bethel University, working on a degree in art education.

Michael and I were reintroduced to each other in 2000, our senior year of college. We both were finishing art degrees and bonded through our mutual creative interests. We started dating in the spring of 2000, and instantly fell in love. 

Marrying Michael

Michael and I were married in June 2005.

Michael was the best person I have ever known. Michael had the warmest brown eyes, the biggest smile. He had amazing hair and facial hair that would change all the time, especially with the seasons. He had the quirkiest sense of humor, the best laugh. He always gave the best hugs. He was the one who could always see when someone was having a bad day, and work to turn their frown upside down.

He had a zest for life that changed everyone who knew him. Above all these amazing details, the greatest thing about Michael was his genuine heart and endless love for those who knew him best.

When you were loved by Michael it was not loud and flashy, but it was genuine and true. The love that he shared with his parents, his siblings, extended family and close friends was always full of humor and joy. The love he shared with me, his wife, and two boys Oliver and Miles, was enormous, steadfast and unforgettable.

Michael’s career and interests

Michael worked as a residential carpenter and project manager on historic and unique homes in St Paul and Minneapolis, with Golliker Construction. His career path let his meticulous talents and precise mind shine. He helped create homes that people love and cherish to this day. More importantly he made real connections with the families and subcontractors he worked with.

Michael was a respectful, honest and hardworking man who people trusted to work on their homes and design projects. His creative and reliable presence in the construction industry will be missed.

Sadly, his death has taken away his ability to finish our own home remodel, and this is yet another dream I will have to complete without him.

Outside of his “day job”, Michael loved to make art. He used so much of his artistic talents with his illustration degree from MCAD to create logos, posters, portraits and most of all screen prints. His bold use of color and attention to detail made his art so amazing.

Michael also loved vintage cars, going to car shows, and anything relating to automotive design. He had a 2009 Dodge Challenger that he special ordered after saving money for 15 years. It was his “fun summer car”, and his own personal get away from the stress of life. His car now sits waiting for him to drive it, but he will never drive that “fun summer car” again. Hopefully his sons and I will learn to drive a manual transmission and enjoy those get away drives for Michael in the future.

Besides cars, Michael loved all kinds of music, and always had music playing in the background. He loved going to live music shows at multiple venues here in the Twin Cities. Music concerts were our best way of planning date nights.

Sadly, I struggle now to listen to music or have the radio on because a song will come on and send me into an emotional tailspin. Certain songs will always remind me of Michael, or a special time we shared together in the past. I used to think of those songs with such fondness, now I hear them and just wish he could be with me for one more date night, to make just one more happy memory.

Loved hockey

Michael loved playing hockey and was on a few ‘old man’ hockey teams with other hockey dads and coaches who became his close friends.

Even more then playing hockey, Michael loved coaching hockey. He coached on multiple youth hockey teams over the last seven years with both the Roseville and Langford Park hockey programs. Hockey was his way to connect with his own boys; to help grow their skills and confidence in life. His efforts to mentor youth through the sport of hockey has created an endless list of other young players who have benefited from his energy as a coach, and the life lessons that he has shared as a good human.

Moving forward, so many of those young players that Michael coached are now facing the start of a new hockey season. Tryouts are underway and team placements are being decided, which is an intense process.

Our home hockey association has offered each player a sticker to add to their helmets that says “MB — In honor of Coach Brasel.” It is impressive to see all these young players adding this sticker to their helmets that they will wear each day. I am hopeful each time they see that sticker they can remember the life lessons Michael shared with them, as they continue to pursue their own goals.

Lastly, over the last seven winters Michael built a bigger and better backyard rink. He did this so his family could play epic 2v2 games and enjoy Minnesota winters together. He made sure that no matter if the rinks were open or not, his boys would always have a way to skate. Michael wanted to make sure his boys could always improve their skills, but more importantly find joy on the ice.

We now struggle with the idea of knowing how to move forward with building and maintaining the rink without Michael’s knowledge and construction skills. I am hopeful this tradition does not also have to die.

May 6 “changed everything”

Moving forward to the day Michael was murdered, May 6, 2023, this was the morning that changed EVERYTHING.

That day I lost my husband, but more importantly I lost my best friend. I no longer have my soulmate, and the man who loved me for 23 years. I no longer have the man who gave me my last name, my two boys, and the man who was my ultimate version of “home”.

Michael was “my compass” for our lives together, and I feel lost without him. I am scared each day, that I am falling short of the goals that Michael and I had to help our boys grow up to be good people. I am scared I won’t be able to fulfill the dreams and aspirations Michael and I had to build a life of substance together.

I am truly missing my better half, and my heart has broken in ways I never knew were possible.

After Michael’s murder, I now struggle to figure out how to run our household without his input. This is so hard because Michael was good at everything. He had so many skills that made our household function, from technological skills with computers, to electrical, plumbing and carpentry.

I now must ask others to help me take care of our house and help me understand all the details of home maintenance.

Sadly, Michael’s death ended his ability to help with our own home remodel; this is yet another dream I will have to complete without him.

I am also constantly overwhelmed by the thoughts of how I will financially make it all work for our boys without Michael’s income. He worked very hard and had a steady income that helped us work towards our goals as a family.

Additionally, my car, the Ford Flex, was part of the crime scene from Michael’s shooting. I have no idea when that will be returned, as it is evidence. Sadly, the Flex was the only car that we still had car payments on.

In order to save my sanity, I paid off the car balance so I don’t have to deal with the monthly punishment of a payment for a car I do not even have. It is an asset that I cannot access, and financially will be something that the courts will not be able to reimburse.

Facing the future

Additionally, because of Michael’s murder I am currently on a leave from my job at Children’s Hospital. I work as a pediatric nurse in many areas of the hospital, including the PICU. I am on a leave because the strength it takes to care for others with acute healthcare needs, is something I cannot handle right now.

I am (currently) afraid to go back to work — as my ability to concentrate and remember details has been difficult for me to process.

I am also not sure how I will handle caring for intubated and vented patients, when the last time I saw a breathing tube — it was in the mouth of my murdered husband.

I am not sure how I will react in a crisis at work if I needed to perform life-saving measures — as the last time I did CPR was on the chest of my husband as we assessed Michael’s three gunshot wounds.

I refuse to let Michael’s murder also take my career away — but I know I am going to need significant therapy to regain my confidence to return to the hospital.

Financial struggles

My continued loss of work is hurting my family financially, as I have run out of paid leave.

I also will need to take a new position at the hospital, because I previously worked the overnight shift, and I can no longer do that as a single parent. This job change requires me to go through application and interviewing processes, which is more added stress.

I also was supposed to finish my last class for my second nursing degree this last summer, and finally graduate from Augsburg University. Class participation was put on hold over the summer, as I grieve the loss of Michael. I have restarted my class again — as I will not let Michael’s murder take more from me. But sadly, I now won’t have Michael, my biggest cheerleader, at my side as I finish my degree and graduate in December.

Still processing

It has now been less than five months since Michael was killed on May 6, 2023. We are all still processing how Michael’s murder has affected our lives. This spring was supposed to be full of joy and happiness, and now it is full of overwhelming grief, sadness and anger. Our family had so many plans and dreams that were destroyed the day Michael was murdered.

The first five months have been made exponentially tougher because we have had many special occasions without Michael:

May 14: Mother’s Day

June 3: Michael’s 45th birthday

June 18: Father’s Day

June 18: Our 18th wedding anniversary

Aug. 5- 10: First family trip without Michael

Aug. 30: Hilary first day of last class at Augsburg

Sept. 8: The start of both boys hockey seasons — without their Dad

This is just the start of the big moments that Michael has missed. It does not begin to cover all the future moments he has been robbed of sharing with our family. We are grieving the loss of Michael’s life in the here and now, but also for all the future moments and milestones that he will never be able to do with those he loved most. Our hearts are broken and our world has been turned upside down by the senseless shooting that took Michael’s life on Saturday May 6, 2023, in the front yard of our home.

I still cannot believe the footage recovered from our neighbors’ cameras that morning. … It shows that the whole interaction of the teens in the car with Michael was less than 57 seconds, between the time the car pulled up, and the car drove away. Please remember that he was an innocent man that did not deserve to be murdered.

Michael had no choice that morning in how his future would play out, and now he only lives in a shiny metal box that we visit every day. I hope that everyday Klee spends in prison he can remember he is not the only one in a box. Michael is in a box forever.

Please honor Michael and have his shooter, Kle Swee, be sentenced to the maximum time he can serve for taking away my best friend. 

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