Brightline deaths: King, 51, had turned life around after prison

Jeffrey King biked the same route from his home to Troy’s Barbeque in Boynton Beach, where he worked as a dishwasher, twice a day, five days a week.

The route always traversed the Florida East Coast Railway tracks that cut through the heart of the city. But on Jan. 17, King, 51, weaved through the safeguard gates that block the railway, likely expecting a slow-moving freight train, on his way home from work, his family said.

Instead, a northbound express passenger service Brightline zoomed through, and struck and killed King — a man who cared for his 82-year-old mother, the homeless and the hungry in an attempt to turn his life around after two prison sentences.

“We’ve conditioned people to think they have more time than they do before the train comes,” said Zedrick Barber II, King’s family attorney. King, 51, was the second person killed by a Brightline train since its January debut.

>> Brightline deaths: City-by-city look at what’s happened and what’s next

Along the railway where King died are flowers and a wooden cross — an homage to King’s Baptist beliefs, which revived him after he served six years in prison in the 1990s for unarmed robbery, his mother Shirley Folsom said.

“He was a much better person after he got out,” said Folsom, who lived with King, her youngest son. “He was baptized in prison and he devoted his life to helping people.”

When he wasn’t working, King volunteered at Caring Kitchen, a nonprofit soup kitchen in Delray Beach, brought coffee and food to homeless people near Boynton Beach City Library and cared for his mother and 11-year-old Siberian Husky, Siba.

“He truly enjoyed it,” Folsom said. “In fact, one of his best friends that was homeless, he hired to mow our lawn so he could make some extra money.”

King’s faith bolstered his kindness, Folsom said. He went to Journey Church in Boynton Beach with his sister and nieces almost every Sunday.

>> Brightline deaths: Lavell, 32, played soccer, was in homecoming court

He was raised in a religious household in Old Town, Maine, where he was born. Folsom’s mother — King’s grandmother — played the organ at the local Methodist church.

When he came to Florida at the age of 15, King — the youngest of five children, two of whom died before he did — fell on tough times. He was convicted of burglary in 1986 and robbery in 1991.

But things were looking up upon his release and that’s what made the train crash all the more tough on his family.

“I often think, did he see it coming? See that fast train?” Folsom said through tears. “I’m told he didn’t, but I know if he did he would have said a prayer. Not for himself, but for me.”

King’s family are pushing for more safety features and education.

“I don’t want another family to go through this,” Folsom said, sitting on the porch of her Boynton Beach home. King’s dog, Siba, sat quietly on the nearby steps, staring at the street outside their home.

He’s been waiting for King to come home, Folsom said.

Folsom takes solace, though, in her last exchange with her youngest son before he headed off to work, a sign of how far he had come since prison.

“I said to him, ‘Wow, you look so good. Clean shaven.’ ” she said. “That’s the last thing I said to him.”

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