San Jose church to honor Dennehy with memorial service
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Patrick James Dennehy became a born-again Christian while listening to a fiery sermon in a newfangled church at the corner of Nortech Parkway and Disk Drive in the heart of Silicon Valley.
So, says pastor Dick Bernal, it's only fitting that Jubilee Christian Center honor the memory of the Baylor basketball player with a fervent "celebration of his life" -- complete with scripture reading by hip-hop star M.C. Hammer, live video on the Web and a Sacramento Kings jersey emblazoned with Dennehy's name.
The nondenominational memorial for the 21-year-old Dennehy, whose roommate allegedly shot him in a grassy field near Waco, Texas, is scheduled for Thursday. As many as 3,400 visitors will hear eulogies from friends and family.
"I won't try to deify the man -- he was still a young man, after all," Bernal said of Dennehy, a 6-foot-10 forward who was kicked off the University of New Mexico team for his temper. "But people were really impressed with Patrick's new lease on life since he found Jesus. He was looking forward to a great life and wanted to live by the book."
Dennehy, whose parents live near Carson City, Nev., was spending last summer with a close friend of the family in Santa Clara, just north of San Jose. When he asked to spend a Friday night at a nearby movie theater, the friend said fine -- but only if he accompanied her to an early evening Bible class first.
Dennehy's mother and stepfather, Valorie and Brian Brabazon, raised him Christian. But Dennehy, an Oakland native who attended St. Francis High School in Mountain View and Wilcox High School in Santa Clara, no longer attended services regularly. He relented to placate the family friend.
"He got away from it like a lot of young guys when they start spreading their wings," Bernal said. "But when I got up and did my sermon, he was listening intently. At the end, I invited him to change his life, to get more God in his life. Tears were coming down his face."
Bernal was scheduled to return to San Jose on Wednesday evening after picking up Dennehy's remains in Dallas. Dennehy's official cause of death is homicide, according to an autopsy released last week by the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas.
Dennehy was last seen in Waco on June 12, and his family reported him missing June 19.
In late July, investigators began combing gravel pits near the Baylor campus. Carlton Dotson, Dennehy's roommate and former teammate, was arrested and charged with murder July 21, after reportedly telling authorities he shot Dennehy when Dennehy tried to shoot him.
Dotson, 21, is in jail without bail near his home in Maryland. Texas officials are trying to have him extradited.
Baylor officials, including president Robert B. Sloan Jr. and coach Dave Bliss, plan to attend the Thursday memorial. Baylor, the world's largest Baptist school with 14,000 students, has scheduled an Aug. 28 memorial in Waco.
Bernal said it's unclear what inspired Dennehy to become a Bible-reading born again at age 20.
"I was 32 when I decided I needed a spiritual change in my life, when I decided I need to connect with God," Bernal said. "You never know what triggers that, but his grades shot up, he stopped partying, and he was going to lead a good life."
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