Taylor Hotzoglou, left, with his brother, Greg, is pictured just after he joined the Army three years ago. Hotzoglou, 22, was found dead in his car from multiple gunshot wounds on Sunday. (Courtesy Hotzoglou family via Leaf-Chronicle)
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CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — Taylor Hotzoglou was the type of person who performed random acts of kindness.
He enjoyed helping almost anyone with anything, even if it was giving the last dollar out of his wallet. It was his kind heart and willingness to help that his brother, Greg, believes led to the 22-year-old's death.
Just after midnight on Sunday, the Clarksville Police Department received a call about a possible wreck with an unresponsive victim, said Detective Michael Ulrey, who is overseeing the case.
When officers arrived, Ulrey said, they found Hotzoglou with multiple gunshot wounds. Police discovered that he had given two men a ride from his apartment and was found dead shortly after that.
As he choked back tears, Greg Hotzoglou said he wished his baby brother hadn't been there and that he could have taken his place.
"I have no idea who did this to him, but I have no doubt he did them his last favor," he said. "He was always so eager to help anybody. He never asked for any help in return. Just so many people have been affected by this, us and his friends, too. He's irreplaceable."
Just returned home
Grief reverberated through the Hotzoglou family as they spoke of their loved one. The native New Yorkers from Long Island flew down to Clarksville as soon as they learned what happened.
Taylor Hotzoglou had just returned from a tour in Afghanistan with the Army. His mother, Debbie, said she and the whole family were nervous he would be killed while he was overseas, but to find out he was killed on American soil was devastating.
"They need to be held accountable. All I want is justice for my son," she said as she gripped Greg's knee. "The craziest part is that it happened here. It makes no sense."
Kerri, Taylor Hotzoglou's wife, was in training at Fort Knox when she heard.
"I got a phone call from a chaplain saying they were at my apartment complex and they needed me to buzz them up," she said. "I told them where I was and they told me over the phone that Taylor was killed and I needed to come back to Clarksville as soon as I could."
Kerri shook from grief and wiped away tears as she talked about her husband of two years and the last conversation they had.
"The last time I talked to Taylor, I was telling him I was going up to Fort Knox," she said. "Just talking about getting together when I got back, but nothing really specific."
Ulrey emphasized that, after all the department's investigations, they've determined Taylor was a true victim and that in accordance with the gunshots, "they were done in a very cowardly way."
"I would assume the big question would be the motive and the randomness or lack of randomness," he said. "All I can say on that is we have multiple leads at this time and each lead is leading us into a different direction with a different theory behind it."
It seems like Taylor was simply doing the two men a favor, Ulrey said, and that the department is adamantly asking for the public's assistance with any information. He said the two men may not have had anything to do with the crime, but he would like to speak with them in case they have any more information.
"This was a soldier who fought for our rights and came back here on American soil and was victimized by someone whose rights he just got through defending," he said. "This guy is a victim. He's not like some of our other victims in Clarksville."
Although their grieving is fresh, the Hotzoglou family laughed through their tears when sharing fond memories of Taylor. Kerri briefly grinned when she described her husband as a goofball.
"Taylor's my hero," she said. "I knew he was coming home and you never expect to get that knock on the door, especially when they're overseas, but to come home, you spend 12 months dodging bullets and seeing people that you love get killed and you come home and you get killed over something aimless. It just doesn't make sense. It's not fair."