TIMES SQUARE, NEW YORK CITY – Madison Brooks’ mom shielded her young sons from the messy, public aftermath of her daughter’s alleged rape and death while wrestling with her own grief “by continuing Madi’s work.”
“What’s helped me is my faith, and knowing I will see her again, one day,” Brooks’ mom, Ashley Baustert, told Fox News Digital in an exclusive interview. “I remember all the good memories I had for 19 years with Madi, and that gives me a lot of comfort.”
The Baton Rouge, Louisiana, case captured national headlines and has played out in the public eye.
Within a month of Brooks’ death on Jan. 15, when she was hit by a car on a Baton Rouge highway after her alleged rapists dropped her off on the side of the road, lawyers representing the four suspects released two short videos to local news stations that showed Brooks in a negative light.
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The first clip was a four-second video released to local news outlet WAFB 9 about two weeks after she died and appeared to show Brooks jogging behind her suspected attackers as they left Reggie’s Bar in Tigerland, LSU’s social hotspot that’s been plagued by crime.
The second clip, a 29-second video from video inside the car, was obtained by WBRZ 2 and aired on Feb. 13 along with an interview with the suspects’ lawyers.
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In the video, Brooks is seen in the backseat and flanked by two men. She is heard saying through slurred speech, “I’m sorry that I offended you that bad. Get out. Get out. I’ll call an Uber on my own.”
One of the suspects is seen exiting the back passenger-side door of the car, and Brooks was let out of the car on the side of a busy highway and heard calling the driver, “Gay.”
Her blood alcohol content was .319%, which is almost four times the legal level to drive, according to authorities.
WATCH LEAKED FOOTAGE
“It hurt,” Baustert said. “It looks very poor, especially to release it so shortly after her death. It was very low blow.”
The videos have not been released in their entirety but are in the hands of the Baton Rouge District Attorney Office’s, which secured indictments against two of the four suspects on the state’s most severe sexual assault charge, punishable by a life in prison.
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“I don’t necessarily believe that any of these video clips are a true depiction of what happened that night,” Baustert said. “The district attorney has the whole thing, and they wouldn’t have gone after upgraded charges unless there was more evidence to do so.”
TUNING OUT THE GLACIAL JUDICIAL PROCESS
Casen Carver, 18, and Desmond Carter, 17, were indicted on third- and first-degree rape charges. Despite his age, Carter will be tried as an adult.
The other two suspects, Everett Lee, 28, and Kaivon Washington, 18, are waiting to be indicted. Currently, Lee is charged with principal to third-degree rape, and Washington was charged with third-degree rape.
Lawyers for the suspects maintain their clients’ innocence and have said the sex was consensual. Carver’s lawyer Joe Long told WWLTV that the charges against his client were unwarranted.
Carver “declined sex when offered and was called gay when he wouldn’t have sex with her,” Long sold the local news outlet. “The DA has seen it fit to pursue charges that could put him in prison for the rest of his life. Facts don’t matter when the mob wants their pound of flesh.”
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Carver’s indictment was the most recent update in the judicial process, which could potentially drag on for years.
To stay healthy – both mentally and physically – Baustert said she tunes out the legal side of her daughter’s death and relies on her lawyer, Kerry Miller, who relays important info.
“I really don’t let myself go there,” Baustert said.
Instead, she focuses on her family and devotes her time to the Madison Brooks Foundation, which advocates for organ donation (a topic the Brooks avidly support), the safety of young adults and a hardship scholarship in Madison’s name.
Her best friend, Jenny Reimold, told Fox News Digital that she’s proud to watch Baustert “put her pain into a purpose to honor Madi.”
“It keeps her moving one baby step in front of the other, and she also has Madi’s brothers to take care of, so she has no other choice but to continue to be the wonderful mother that she is,” Reimold said.
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“The way she’s focused on the positive ways to honor her daughter while living her is what has been so inspiring as her friend to see.”
Baustert said she has been teaching her boys that it is ok to grieve and miss Madison, and there is nothing wrong with enjoying life.
“I tell them, ‘It’s what Madi would’ve wanted,'” Baustert said.
Both of her brothers love baseball and play on travel teams. Reimold showed Fox News Digital a video of the LSU baseball team signing their jerseys, letting them throw out the first pitch and showing them the locker room.
It was “best day” the boys – ages 8 and 10 – have had since their sister died.
WATCH BROOKS’ YOUNGER BROTHERS HAVE “BEST DAY” WITH LSU BASEBALL SINCE THEIR SISTER’S DEATH
SUNDAY WOULD’VE BEEN MADI’S 20th BIRTHDAY
Brooks was a “girly girl” with a “firecracker” flare, said Baustert, who said it was important to continue their family tradition of celebrating Brooks’ birthday with a “last-minute trip.”
Previous excursions included skiing in the Rocky Mountains and skydiving over the Grand Canyon with her dad.
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“Can you imagine jumping out of a plane? I couldn’t imagine just looking down and having to jump,” Baustert said. “I asked her if she was scared, and she was like, ‘Mom, it was the most peaceful experience.’ I like to say she got a tour of heaven before she reached those gates. That was her tour of her new house.
“Madi experienced more in her short 19 years than many of us will ever experience in our lifetimes. She loved trying new things and exploring new places.”
Baustert, Reimold and Baustert’s mom, Mandy LeBlanc, continued their annual tradition and celebrated what would have been Brooks’ 20th birthday with a trip New York City, specifically Times Square, where a billboard of the Madison Brooks Foundation towered above the Big Apple.
They spent Monday afternoon with Fox News Digital and talked about Brooks’ life and how they’re coping with the loss while checking out the billboard.
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Baustert – in a bright pink dress in honor of Brooks’ love for the color – stood a little ahead of her mom and Reimold as she looked up at the Times Square billboard for her daughter.
They all watched the 10-second slide show that started with Brooks’ photo under the hashtag #MadiMadeMeSmile and the Madison Brooks Foundation website, created in her honor, underneath.
MADISON BROOKS FOUNDATION BILLBOARD IN TIMES SQUARE
“I feel she’s with me all the time,” Baustert said. “Now, it’s about picking up where Madi left off.”
Brooks’ family registered a star in her honor. It’s located at the very tip of bull’s horn of the Taurus constellation, which her family said represents her perfectly.
“She was brave. She was fearless. She was strong, and she stood up for what she believed in. No one could convince her to do or say anything she didn’t feel was important,” Baustert said. “But she loved with everything she had. She treated her friends like her siblings, like they were part of her family.”
They bought a telescope for ther brothers so they can see Brooks’ star whenever they want.
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